The Comparative Benefits of Standalone Email Assignments in the First-Year Legal Writing Curriculum
The Journal of the Legal Writing Institute, Vol. 22, 2018
37 Pages Posted: 29 Nov 2018
Date Written: Spring 2018
Many of today’s law school graduates lack the practical skills that they need to thrive as practicing lawyers. As a result, it is incumbent on law schools — and, specifically, legal writing programs — to redouble their efforts to prepare law students for the realities of modern legal practice. And perhaps no feature of modern legal practice has been more striking than the rapid rise of email as a means of professional communication. Driven by its speed, efficiency, and convenience over the traditional, formal memorandum, email is now the most popular way for lawyers to provide legal advice. As a result, teaching effective email practices is no longer optional.
After a somewhat slow start, email has received increased attention in legal writing scholarship and pedagogy in recent years, and email assignments have be-come a mainstay in many first-year legal writing programs. But while there have been many suggestions about the types of email assignments that could be used, there has been little principled discussion of which types of email assignments should be used and what purposes the different types of email assignments serve.
This Article attempts to contribute to this discussion with several specific goals. First, the Article reiterates the point that email assignments should be an integral part of the first-year legal writing curriculum. Second, it establishes a very basic taxonomy of e-mail assignments and examines the benefits of each type. Third, it argues that relying solely on email assignments that are set in the context of a larger memo assignment may miss opportunities to help students fully develop specific research, analytical, and writing skills that they are likely to need in practice. Lastly, the Article suggests a specific type of email assignment — the “Procedural E-memo” — as an efficient tool for helping students develop a range of practical research, analytical, and writing skills that they are likely to use in sending emails in practice.
Keywords: legal writing, email, pedagogy, legal instruction, legal skills, legal research
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