Analysis, Research, and Communication in Skills-Focused Courses
Building on Best Practices: Transforming Legal Education in a Changing World, Ch. 5B (Deborah Maranville, Lisa Radtke Bliss, Carolyn Wilkes Kaas & Antoinette Sedillo Lopez eds., Lexis 2015), Forthcoming
18 Pages Posted: 29 Jan 2015 Last revised: 15 Oct 2015
Date Written: January 27, 2015
Since the Carnegie Report and Best Practices for Legal Education were published, a new focus has emerged on building students’ traditional foundational skills through increased opportunities for experiential education, including legal research and writing instruction. Although the Carnegie Report explored legal writing pedagogy in some detail, Best Practices devoted little attention to how foundational analytical, research, and writing skills are or should be taught with specificity, which provided the impetus for more extended treatment here. This section identifies some “better practices” being used and urges adoption of best practices.
In skills-focused courses, legal analysis, research, and writing should be taught as a fluid and recursive process in a client-centered context, giving students the opportunity to write, reflect, and revise. To build and retain fundamental skills, law students should have at least one significant writing experience each semester of law school. It could take the form of practice-related or “instrumental” writing, “writing to learn” exercises, or other forms. Although the ABA requires two rigorous writing courses in the J.D. curriculum, many schools require that only one be practice-related. Some schools have addressed the inadequacy of the ABA requirements by expanding their legal writing programs from two to three or four semesters. The best practice is also to offer advanced, upper-level courses in analysis, research, and writing. For maximum effectiveness, all foundational writing, research, and analysis courses taught in the first year should be taught in small classes by full-time law teachers with practice experience and equal status.
Keywords: legal analysis, legal writing, legal education, law teaching, law schoos, legal skills, experiential education
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