Mentoring New Legal Writers

The Journal of the Kansas Bar Association, Vol. 81, No. 1, 2012

Posted: 10 Dec 2011 Last revised: 17 Mar 2017

See all articles by Tonya Kowalski

Tonya Kowalski

Washburn University School of Law

Date Written: December 9, 2011


This essay for the Kansas Bar Association Journal explains why novice legal writers struggle to apply skills they learned in law school to even very similar assignments in their clerkships, externships, and first years of practice. First, the essay explains how lawyer-mentors can help their mentees to recognize and overcome the “transfer of learning” barrier that keeps them from recognizing that they bring valuable skills to their new jobs. Second, the essay encourages patience among mentors in understanding that many contemporary law students need professional customs and behaviors to be defined more explicitly because they do not as often have business experience. Third, the essay provides basic techniques that mentors can use to triage and critique common legal writing problems in structure, proof, and style.

Suggested Citation

Kowalski, Tonya, Mentoring New Legal Writers (December 9, 2011). The Journal of the Kansas Bar Association, Vol. 81, No. 1, 2012. Available at SSRN:

Tonya Kowalski (Contact Author)

Washburn University School of Law ( email )

1700 College Avenue
Topeka, KS 66621
United States


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