Every fall, I work with my first year law students to begin developing their legal writing skills. They work hard learning how to analyze cases objectively, predict how a court might resolve a dispute, and convey their assessments to an experienced attorney. Their improvement from September to December is noticeable. They have only one semester of law school behind them and still have much to learn, but they’re on their way…In the second semester, we begin focusing on advocacy. The first assignment asks students to draft a pretrial brief. When I review the drafts, I’m struck by how many problems that seemed to have been eradicated the previous semester reappear a little more than a month later. For many students, the hallmarks of effectively communicating legal analysis that were emphasized throughout the first semester—techniques in which students had started to become competent and, in some cases, proficient—are noticeably reduced or even absent from the draft brief. Organizing the analysis to focus on issues, not cases? Leading with conclusions? Keeping the unfamiliar reader oriented with strong topic sentences and other roadmap devices? Missing in action…This can be explained in part by lack of practice. Legal writing is a skill, and like all other skills, a person’s abilities can deteriorate without opportunities to put them into play. But the larger explanation is one that comes up over and over in all sorts of settings, whether academic, work-related, or personal. The reason my students seem to have forgotten much of what they learned can be summed up in one short phrase: the transferability problem. It’s a problem they share with all adult learners. And as most lawyers who frequently work with young attorneys can attest, it’s a problem that doesn’t go away when law students graduate and begin practice.
Becker, Edward R. "Transferability: Helping Students and Attorneys Apply What They Already Know to New Situations (Part 1)." Mich. B.J. 98, no. 1 (2019): 50-2.