Legal Writing and Academic Support: Timing is Everything

38 Pages Posted: 27 Sep 2004 Last revised: 7 Dec 2012

See all articles by Dionne L. Koller

Dionne L. Koller

University of Baltimore - School of Law


The conventional wisdom is that legal writing and academic support go hand-in-hand. Most law schools assume that struggling students can be reliably identified for academic support through their first-year legal writing course, and that first-year legal writing instructors can fairly easily and effectively provide this support. Indeed, this is the prevailing view in current academic support and legal writing scholarship. Professor Koller's article challenges the conventional wisdom and instead points out several issues that should be considered if a law school relies on the first-year legal writing course as a component of, or in lieu of, an academic support program. First, Professor Koller argues that identifying students who may need academic support through a first-year legal writing course can give many "false positives" and "false negatives" due to the unique nature of the course. Second, Professor Koller points out that first-year legal writing courses do not provide "built-in" academic support, as is frequently assumed. Because the goals and challenges of the first-year course are so significant, there is often little opportunity for a professor to provide meaningful academic support. Finally, Professor Koller argues that the structure of the typical first-year legal writing course can encourage student dependence on faculty support, something that is counter-productive to a law school's academic support efforts.

In light of these issues that are presented in the first-year, Professor Koller argues that the best use of a legal writing course in conjunction with academic support is as a vehicle for more advanced academic support in the upper-level curriculum. Professor Koller supports this argument with an illustration of the academic support model in place at the University of Maryland School of Law.

Keywords: Legal writing, Academic support

Suggested Citation

Koller, Dionne L., Legal Writing and Academic Support: Timing is Everything. Cleveland State Law Review, Vol. 53, 2005; U of Maryland Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2004-19. Available at SSRN:

Dionne L. Koller (Contact Author)

University of Baltimore - School of Law ( email )

1420 N. Charles Street
Baltimore, MD 21218
United States

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