Unlocking the Secrets of Highly Successful Legal Writing Students
57 Pages Posted: 13 Mar 2007
Date Written: March 8, 2007
Why are some law students successful in their legal writing classes and others are not? To identify the secrets to success, I did a case study of six second-year law students as they wrote a motion brief and an appellate brief for their 2L legal writing course. Based on their 1L legal writing course, two of these students were predicted to be highly successful, two were predicted to be moderately successfully, and two were predicted to be only marginally successful. Through daily records of all their activities related to writing the briefs, interviews with the study subjects, drafts of their two brief projects, and their professor's critiques of their work, the study reveals not only the results of working harder but the specifics of working smarter. The secrets to working smarter included note-taking and note-reviewing strategies; how to divide one's time between researching, drafting, revising, editing, and proofreading; how to research and read cases efficiently; strategies for efficient time management; techniques for organizing one's research and staying organized while writing; and accessing the professor as a primary resource. Pitfalls to avoid included procrastination, poor management of distractions, and scapegoating.
Keywords: legal writing, law school pedagogy, law school success, time management, legal research, procrastination, strategies for success, research strategies, learning strategies, study skills, peer revision, collaborative learning, outlining
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