Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2018

Abstract

Five years ago, I went to lunch with a colleague. I was teaching a legal writing course to 1L students, and he taught in a clinic in which 2L and 3L students were required to write short motions and briefs. Several of his students had taken my writing class as 1Ls, and he had a question for me. "What the heck are you teaching these students?" he asked as we sat down. He explained that several of his students were struggling with preparing simple motions. They were not laying out facts clearly. They were not identifying key legal rules. In many cases, they failed to begin their motions with a simple statement of what they were asking the court to do. He wanted to know how these students could have taken a full-year course that focused on legal writing and yet struggle with basic writing tasks. This, of course, echoes a sentiment frequently offered by practitioners: young attorneys are terrible writers. It's a refrain I hear whenever I speak about the state of legal practice with practicing attorneys and judges. Bryan Garner, a leading voice in the world of legal writing, feels the same way. In his view, "[L]awyers on the whole don't write well and have no clue that they don't write well."


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