Motions in Motion: Teaching Advanced Legal Writing Through Collaboration
Sarah J. Morath
University of Houston Law Center
University of Akron School of Law
University of Akron - School of Law
April 8, 2013
Perspectives: Teaching Legal Research and Writing, Vol. 22, 2013
U of Akron Legal Studies Research Paper No. 13-08
Legal education is at a crossroads. Practitioners, academics, and students agree that more experiential learning opportunities are needed in law school. In 2007, the Carnegie Foundation report, Educating Lawyers: Preparation for the Profession of Law (Carnegie Report), called for law schools to provide apprentice experiences to better prepare prospective attorneys for the world of practice. That same year, Best Practices in Legal Education advocated “experiential education” and “encourage[d] law school[s] to expand its use.” More recently, in August 2011, the American Bar Association adopted a resolution sponsored by the New York Bar Association summoning law schools to “focus on making future lawyers practice ready.” This move was followed by the front-page "New York Times" article provocatively entitled What They Don’t Teach Law Students: Lawyering which criticized legal education for failing to provide students with “much practical training.”
Many efforts are underway to create a learning environment in law school that will better prepare graduates for the practice of law. Not surprisingly, legal writing professors have led the way in designing courses to make students more practice-ready. One approach involves creating a course that replicates the law firm setting, so that students better understand what it is like to be a junior associate. Another approach involves legal writing professors collaborating with casebook or clinical professors.
At our law school, upper level writing courses present an opportunity for legal writing professors to engage in experiential learning. With extensive experience in the civil litigation context, both in front of and behind the bench, we created a “trio” of upper level legal writing classes that simulate the three stages of motion practice: motion, opposition, and ruling. We collaborated to link three separate writing classes into an integrated course that requires students to step into the role either of counsel or judge and interact with one another on a professional level.
This article summarizes how we coordinated our trio of classes to create a simulated litigation experience. We first describe our various goals in designing such a course. We then explain the practical considerations involved in creating and coordinating the trio of classes, each of which assumes a different role in the litigation process. Finally, we assess the success of the course design, using both our self-evaluation as teachers and our students’ feedback.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 23
Keywords: legal writing, advanced legal writing, teaching legal writing, simulating practice, legal education
JEL Classification: K00, K10
Date posted: April 19, 2013