Why Legal Writing is 'Doctrinal' and More Importantly Profound
14 Pages Posted: 22 Mar 2018 Last revised: 24 Apr 2018
Date Written: March 18, 2018
So long as we must use the questionable term “doctrinal” when referring to law school courses, this article challenges everyone (including law professors who teach legal writing) to stop directly and indirectly referring to legal writing as a “non-doctrinal” course. Use of “non-doctrinal” can be code for “lesser” thereby suggesting that legal writing has lesser import than other law school courses. Erroneously so marking legal writing as “lesser” damages legal education across the board. It damages students and law professors not teaching legal writing by suggesting that legal writing and the theory, skills and insights taught by legal writing merit less of their time which in turn increases the odds that both students and other faculty will remain ignorant of the critical knowledge and skills that legal writing teaches. It also damages law professors teaching legal writing because it invites disparate treatment such as lack of tenure, lower pay, lack of equal voting rights, and lack of equal respect. As a result, law professors teaching legal writing encounter greater difficulties in publishing scholarship, difficulties which deprive us all of the scholarship so silenced or deterred.
Such erroneous code also ignores the profound subject matters addressed in legal writing courses today, a number of which subject matters are briefly surveyed in this article. Such erroneous code further ignores fundamental principles of semantics and fundamental insights of modern cognitive psychology embraced by legal writing courses today.
In addition to examining the foregoing, this article also explores why the term “doctrinal” should be replaced with terms and phrases such as “meaningful” and "intertwined proper theory and practice” when referring to and evaluating courses and their content.
Keywords: legal writing, doctrine, doctrinal, semantics, modern cognitive psychology, embodied meaning, rhetoric, legal education, Langdell, Wittgenstein, IRAC, CREAC, RIRAC, Lakoff, disparate treatment
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