'Fingers Pointing at the Moon': New Perspectives on Teaching Legal Writing and Analysis
21 Pages Posted: 4 Jun 2011
Date Written: 1993
There is a Zen proverb: “Teachers’ words are fingers pointing at the moon. The student who looks too closely at the fingers never sees the moon.” Ineffably, this says as much about teaching legal analysis as it does about finding enlightenment.
I have taught legal writing and reasoning at five laws schools, directed legal writing programs at two law schools, and served as coordinator of a lawyering program. I believe that the development of process-based “analytical” skills (e.g., cases analysis, synthesis, and analogization), organizational skills, memorization skills (e.g., accurate restatement of applicable rules of law), and written communication skills are crucial to law school success and provide the infrastructure for all other lawyering activities. While these skills may be identified readily, it is extremely difficulty for many law students to internalize and apply the aesthetics of legal analysis. In this presentation I candidly explore why this is so - why teaching legal analysis is often akin to trying to help students find enlighten.
Keywords: Legal Writing, Teaching Legal Writing, Legal Analysis
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