Preparing for Law School: Legal Writing | Emilia Gardner | Skillshare

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Preparing for Law School: Legal Writing

teacher avatar Emilia Gardner, Learning every day!

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

1 Lessons (32m)
    • 1. Introduction Writing In Law School

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About This Class

Are you headed to law school in the near future? Let me tell you from my personal experience....I wish I had done more to prepare for it. I didn't realize how much my colleagues (competition) did to get ready for law school. I thought it was all about getting good grades in undergrad, and getting accepted.

Turns out, there is a lot more to getting to Day 1 of law school than I had ever realized. This is especially the case now when so much content is available online and at very reasonable rates. 

In another course I published here on Skillshare: Preparing for Law School: How to Banish Anxiety and Get Ahead, we talk a little bit about LRW, but in very general terms. In this Introduction to LRW, we talk more at length about what will happen in LRW, and provide the beginning concepts you'll need to start understanding to have a successful experience in LRW.      

If you enjoyed this course or got value out of it, check back on my profile, as I plan to start uploading more law school prep material regularly in the future. 

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Emilia Gardner

Learning every day!



My name is Emilia.

I'm not an expert. I'm learning every day, just like you. I'm here because I am passionate about: "Learn, Do, Teach." I truly believe that teaching is the best way to master a skill or concept. I create content around the topics that I am implementing for myself.



I am obsessed with building passive income streams. When my children arrived, my dreams of the corner office with the view changed. Now I dream of having complete control over my days so that I can be where I am needed, when I am needed. No more trading time for money. My classes focus heavily upon helping others build the same skills that I have learned (and earned) since making my career pivot. 

One of my goals here at Ski... See full profile

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1. Introduction Writing In Law School: Hey, everyone. And welcome this class is an introduction to legal writing for law school. Now, who would benefit from this course? If you are thinking about going to law school and then your future and your thinking Okay, I would really like to get started on this. I don't know that much about legal writing. I don't know what this is going to look like. I want to learn more, or maybe you don't see law school in your future, But you're just curious about how lawyers and legal professionals construct their written products. Maybe you want to know, how does this work? How do they put together briefs? Or is there something about this type of writing that I could use to improve my own persuasive writing skills? Maybe this is the type of writing that I would like to employ on my blogger or or in my business. You know, if I'm writing memos for my boss, I'd like to do a better job at putting this together and organizing it better. What are we going to talk about today? So the focus of this course is to introduce you to legal writing so that you can have the building blocks to go on and be successful in what we call Eller. W L R W is the acronym for what we call legal research and writing that course L R W can be awesome for a lot of people because they can have a great experience in it. But for others, and I put myself in that category L R W could be one of the most painful courses that you can go into in law school just because it is so, um, it can be so difficult to really get a handle on what it is that they want you to do and how you are supposed to do it. Now I just want to say that legal writing, like really becoming a good legal writer, can take a long time. So if you're going into this like, ah, you know, I think I'm a good writer, but I've never done legal writing. I need to be a good legal rider before I get into law school. If that's not the expectation, it's not expected that you will be able before you going to law school to pound up massively awesome briefs that you will be able to provide the court or to impress your boss or your manager at a law firm. This course is about preparing you, taking the first steps to being successful in the Ellard of you and then onward in your career. But even in oller w they're not expecting you to produce a massively persuasive content. They just want you to understand what it is that you need to do. And to do that to put out content or to put out briefs are written product that is consistent with what they are teaching. And that is how you can be successful in L. R. W. So why does my legal writing matter so much like, Why do I care? Like, why is it that this course should matter? Well, in general, for you personally, your writing precedes you. In any time you are going to meet another attorney or before you meet a judge or take your client and appear in court, your writing has gone in front of you. Somebody has read something you have written before they ever meet you before they ever meet your client. So you can think of it like a resume like a job application. You would never send an incomplete or typo ridden resume to a potential employer because you know that it would hurt you. And the same is true with your briefs and your pleadings or anything else and writing it has to be as good as you can possibly make it, because in every case it is your introduction to them. And not only that, your client will see it. And if they see something that looks really, really awful there, think twice about giving you their money. But for judges, when they get your writing, they will start to develop conclusions about the content about your case and also about you . They may decide that after reading your brief that they don't like you that much. And that can actually backfire when you get to court, because you are gonna have plenty of opportunities to clash with the judge or clash with opposing counsel. And if the judge just really doesn't like you that much, I mean, their job is to be fair, right? But they they have plenty of opportunities in a case to help you or not help you, and it doesn't have anything to do with the law like they could be friendly or not friendly . And if they don't like you because of something that you file, then that can harm you and your client down the road. So L R W What is that? Like we said, L R W is what we call the legal research and writing course in law school. The point of Eller W is to teach you the basic building blocks of performing legal research and to prepare written documents. I'm not talking about pleading, so I'm not talking about complaints and answers or or motions, practice or anything like that. We're basically talking about the building blocks in the foundation of preparing written and persuasive argument for most law schools. First years take two semesters of Ellard of you, and that is required for just about every law school in the United States. You have the opportunity in some schools to go on and take advanced alert of you, but it's not always an option. In most cases, it is not required. Um, it's pretty consistent across most law schools that in the fall semester you will start with writing what we call memorandum or the the 10 memo. You may have what they call a closed memo, which they give you all of the things. They set up a closed ecosystem where you don't do your own research. You don't dio you know anything. I mean, it can be really overwhelming right to have to do all of this the first time. You may not know it now, but it really can be so. They will give you the research. And then from the research, you will develop your argument and the world is closed. So it's a lot simpler than going out and having to find the research on your own. But after the closed memo, you were off also have to do an open memo, which is you have to go out and employ the research skills that they have taught you in the first in a week or month of l ow To get your own research, get your own cases, get your own citations and put it together for a memo in the spring semester is when we see the appellate brief and oil arguments. So the memo writing is generally more balance. So you're you're not necessarily going to take aside and argue that side you might just be doing research and then presenting what the options are for the outcome in the case based upon the fax. But the appellate brief is generally very persuasive. You will be assigned aside potentially in a case you know, the petitioner and respondent or the plaintiff or the defendant. And then, in most cases, from most schools, you will also have an opportunity to argue your case. Argue your point. Argue your version of how this should play out to a panel of like they could be actual judges a lot of times their lawyers who come and volunteer at the law school. But sometimes they may actually be to judges. So why it does this course matter? Well, good writers I've found and I have this personal experience and I've seen this a lot with law students is that L. R. W can be really hard for people who have previous experience in writing the kind of writing . If you're not a taught in legal writing, I should say I'm the type of writing you learn in high school or in college. You know, if you're taking philosophy or ah Ah, creative writing or English writing, writing books, writing, poetry, writing papers and whatever. This type of writing is not the type of writing that you will learn in the alert of you. And so what we see often in my own experience and I saw with my colleagues, is that people who got A's in college and creative writing, people who were journalists who were English majors, people who love to read books and, no, you know really well what good writing is. They tend to really struggle in l ow. Because L. R. W is not about good writing, it's about persuading. And so it's not creative. It's not. It doesn't always make sense. Even if you read it like this doesn't even sound good. It it's not necessarily easy to read, and it's not necessarily enjoyable to read. And that is probably how you were taught to write. I definitely will say that that is how I was taught to write, and so when I got into a lot of you, I had a really hard time who succeeds in a lot of you. What's funny about this is that people who struggled with riding before law school often do really well in the other W because the reason that they struggled in creative writing was the creativity part. You have to come up with your own structure, and you have to come up with your own sentence length and and the topics. And there wasn't really a good step by step way to get through the project and a really creative way. Write it. People. We know what say it's too repetitive and it's not interesting and it's not, um it's boring. Well, guess what? People who love a step by step system to produce a written project will do really, really well in Al Ow. Especially engineers, you know, who go through writing potentially in, um, you know, in college and like, Oh, this isn't very easy. This isn't very interesting. Like the people who read my writing, they think it's really boring. They don't like it. Ah, what we saw What I saw personally was that in L. R. W. These folks did really amazing and other w. And for the creative writers, it was mine bottlings like how How did these people put this together? Like, How did they How did they do it. How did they see it? And what the creative writers didn't realize is that these tech writers didn't have these hurdles to overcome. They didn't have a preconceived notion about what good writing should look like, and so they didn't have to turn that off and retrained themselves their training themselves for the first time in this new style of writing. But they didn't have to to put aside training that just is no longer applicable. Um, for many people, L. A. W. Is the training process, and if you aren't prepared for it, it is going to hurt a lot. I know I just said that, but I'm going to say it again. It can be incredibly painful, and that was my personal experience. So let's talk about the structure of legal argument. Legal argument is pretty much a formula that you're going to repeat over and over and over again. Now, depending upon who your teacher is, they may teach the the name of this formula in a different way. You may hear it as Iraq or crack or cree act, but in almost every case, you're going to be introducing either the issue or the conclusion at the very beginning of the paragraph for the section, then you're going to have the rule, which is the law that applies the law that controls the law. That should turn this 0.1 way or another. You're going to have the application section or it's also called the Argument section, which is applying the rule to the fax and then the conclusion. You may have other acronyms presented to you in law school, but in almost every case, this is the same formula across the board that you will be learning. I put this a note down here. It's kind of funny, but it is true. Is this deviation from this formula is grounds for failure. If you go into your legal writing and you present a memo that does not follow this formula , you are not going to get good grades in l art of you. You're just not. Why is a lot of you so strict about the Iraq or crack, uh, the structure that you are learning? Even though it doesn't sound right? It sounds repetitive, and it's not interesting. Unfortunately for you, this is the way that lawyers communicate, and just because you think that it's wrong or bad or not interesting. Well, that's how everybody else talks to each other. So if you don't learn how to communicate with other lawyers and judges in the way that they are used to communicating to each other, it will be very difficult for you to succeed. So even if in the future, when you are a lawyer or whatever you are, you don't want to do this type of writing. You need to learn how to do it for one so that you can write things to send to them, but also so that you are able to understand what you receive from them in return law school is about. It's kind of like the military. In some ways, it is about training you to think in a very linear way, but to get you there, they want to break down the way that you did things before and then build you back up in the way that they want you to do and think. They may tell you this in the beginning of law school, but they will tell you to go right away after that first day and apologize to all of your friends and family for what is about to happen to you and to them. Because way law school is breaking down your thinking and building you back up again. It will change all of your interpersonal dynamics because you will begin to look and see things and speak about them in a very different way. And your friends and family may not understand what is happening or why it is happening because they do not think or see things in the same way as you do anywhere. So what will a memo or breathe utilizing Iraq actually look like? In most cases, you will have to summarize the question so there will be a section that has the question generally is could be a paragraph or could be pages long, depending upon what it is that you are doing in this particular briefer memo. Then you will have a short answer to that question. Basically, this summarizes the answer to the question that you're going to present down lower in your in your briefer In your memo. The reason that this exists is if you were presenting this memo to amenity a partner or managing partner or client. They want to know just really briefly what the memo is about, what it is that you're doing. So the question presented section in the short answer section will give them that information and they will know right then and there one if they know something about it. If you're on the right track to it, will tell them whether or not this is something they want to read right now or three. If they just don't have time to read it all, they'll basically be able to just get everything that is in the memo, but in a small bite so that they could move on to the thing that is important to do for them. Next, you will also do a section that is the relevant background fax. This is not the section for you to go often tell the life story of the parties or what happened. Basically, every fact that you are setting out in the background fax needs to be relevant to what is that you're presenting in the question. So if you think it's important to the argument that the court know that this is a single mother with five kids and this single mother grew up in Ontario, Canada. I mean, those things are good things to say if it's relevant, but otherwise this is distracting noise that you probably won't end up, including in your back room. Fax in the discussion section is where we will see all of your various instances of utilizing Iraq. So you're not using Iraq in the question presented or in the background, fax. Depending upon what it is or how it is you answer your question. You may structure it like that in your short answer summary. But in general, the discussion section is where it is that we're going to go through and utilize your your conclusion, your rule, your argument and then your conclusion. And then finally, at the end of the memo, you will have another conclusion that is very similar to the short answer summary section, which again just wraps up what it is that you have done and what it is that the person reading the brief should take away from it. So in the discussion section, here's what it kind of would look like. You would see either a paragraph or a section paragraph will under Section one, and they would go through and very linear linear early layout, the idea, the rule, the application or the argument, and then the conclusion. And then you would start either a new paragraph or a new section. You may find that your Iraq fits into one paragraph, or you may find that your Iraq is, you know, one section of your brief. There's not one way to do this necessarily. It just depends on how much goes into each of these sections when you are first in L. R W. Well, you probably see is encouragement to put your Iraq short and sweet into one paragraph. So a one line ah introduction or one line conclusion and then a one line rule and then a one maybe two line argument and then a one line conclusion just to teach you how to get into the flow of what Iraq is and what it looks like. So let's talk more about Iraq, and I say Iraq, I don't mean the country. I mean, we're talking about this acronym. We can call it crack the the Conclusion rule argument conclusion. So the idea. This is where you will tell the reader what the paragraph is about But this isn't, you know. You explaining the case again? This is ah, summary sentence that tells you what it is that you want the reader to take away from this particular paragraph. This is the whole purpose of this paragraph. That's while the crack. Instead of saying idea rule, it says, conclusion will because basically you'll you'll be giving the conclusion that you expect the reader to draw when they have finished reading your paragraph. So this will depend upon what it is you're creating. Is it a memo that needs to be balanced like you're writing it for judge who needs to be able to see both sides of what's going on? Or is this written for the judge when you want to persuade them and that one side is right and the other is not, so you'll use when you're trying Teoh sell something in a balanced way. You will say something like the court will likely rule or probably rule or will be persuaded that, and then for a brief, you will use a lot of, um, directly direction language like the court must find or the court should find, or the court will find you're telling the court what it is that it should do because you want it to do that based upon your research and your argument. So the rule. This is where you establish the governing legal principle that makes your conclusion the correct one. Or why it is that your first sentence, why your idea is the right one. In most cases, this is going to be something that's going to need a citation, you know, Ah, statute to a particular law or to a case to the particular holding or the summarizing legal principle that you take from a case. It is going to be cited in 99% of the times. In most cases, you will first state the rule, you know, either quoting it directly or summarizing it appropriately in a way that makes sense and then, you know, always reporting where you got it. And depending upon the complexity of the rule and the requirements of your professor, they may ask for an explanation of the rules. So you you telling the court you know what it is that that just was said in this particular statute? In most cases, you will explain the rule by referring to other cases that explain the rule, for example, is fairly common to find cases that also involve the same rule and to summarize the facts of those cases and how the core applied the rule. And that's it. Same situation and the outcome of the case in that situation when those facts and that rule was applied. So down here, I just have an example of what the rule in the section might look like. And I'll just read it. I'm sure you can see it on the screen, but it is well established that in quotes the use of force is contrary to the Fourth Amendment. If it is excessive under objective standards of reasonable, reasonable nous, I can't even say Ah, you know, quote. And then it has thieve various citation. So this is the rule of law that supports the idea or the conclusion that you began the section or the paragraph with now the application. You can also call this the Argument section. This is the chance for you to shine right. The the conclusion is, you know, the basement, the map, the roadmap, what it is we're going to cover here, The rule is why it is that that conclusion is right and the argument is your explanation, and you're not necessarily going to be citing anything. This is, uh, how you persuade this is how you tell the court that these particular fax in this particular situation based upon this particular law, makes you win. Now, if you want to focus this argument super tight here, you're not going to go off on tangents to the left or to the right or to introduce new rules. If you I want to introduce new rules or have other you know, cases that support your point, you need to look potentially at whether or not these cases should actually be the rule, rather than that having the rule that you previously set out, or whether or not it makes sense to just set up a new Iraq so that you can talk about this case and why it is that it applies, and then the conclusion. And again, this. It's hard for folks who are just getting started. But you're basically going to say something really similar to what you said at the very beginning. So in the beginning you may have said you know the court must rule in favor of plaintiff because blah, blah, blah. And then at the end, you probably say something really similar, like the court must rule in front of in favor of plaintiff because of, um, it. And it really feels like you're repeating yourself. But in many cases you are, and you shouldn't feel afraid to be repetitive in that way, because again, it's very, very structured. It's not a place for you to deviate and to go up and change things to make it your own good . Iraq, especially an alert of you in law school, can be formulate, can be repetitive. It may feel like it is not creative that definitely will not feel poetic in any way. And for these reasons, good writers or trained writers can really struggle because it just feels so wrong. To do it this way feels boring. It doesn't feel helpful or right, but don't worry. You'll get over it. But in the process of getting over that, it can be really painful. And it can be really hard to put aside your instincts about writing and your previous training and riding two right in this matter. But What if I want to write more and my brief? Well, that's fine. If it fits into a section, if it doesn't fit into the question, presented the background the or Iraq or the conclusion at the end of the brief, then you don't include it. Everything must have a place. It just must fit in the structure somewhere. If you want to add additional argument, for one needs to be supported by the law and the facts, but also it needs to fit in with the structure. If this is a new argument, if this is a new way to look at the fax, create another section, another conclusion with the rule that supports it, and then the application to the facts and then another conclusion. There are definitely better ways to extend your wings. You know, once you become a lawyer, once you are out there in the world and doing your legal writing, you can extend your wings and improve on this formula. But if what you were after in law school is getting the best grade possible than I hate to say this out loud because it even sounds wrong. But conformity is how you will make that happen, Conform, conforming to what it is that they are trying to teach You will get you the best possible grade that you can. And L R w Another thing I have to tell you about typos, misspellings. Punctuation is etcetera. Your brief has to be basically as flawless as you could make it. And I'm not kidding. They are going to be looked at the citations, and they will ding you for a period that is in the wrong place. If you italicize a comma that is not supposed to be italicized, you can get dinged for that. What they encourage you to do is to take a piece of paper and review your briefs and maybe 2030 40 pages, line by line forwards and backwards to make sure that there are no typos. So spending a minute on every line in your brief, going through it to make sure that there are not type of to do a good job at catching typos and misspellings. Here is what I did and what I do now that I am a practicing lawyer. One is I do review it line by line, forward and backwards. I do not rely upon my word processing software to catch the, you know, wrong words to catch typos, to catch grammatical issues at all. I have, ah, a another person. Take a look at the brief, forward and backwards, just like I do sometimes another persons who are so two or three different sets of eyes and you want to make sure that the eyes are fresh. So if you have been looking your brief all day long and then you expect to be able to look at it at 10 o'clock at night, too, be able to catch your typos and edits. You are gonna miss stuff because what can happen is your eyes just stopped seeing what's in the brief. And there are two ways to battle. That. One is to put the brief down for a couple days, or even a week that can overcome sort of that, um, tiredness of seeing that and you know, your body. Stop saying the same thing over and over and over again, so maybe it is that you'll be able to see it, but I think the best way primarily is to exchange the briefs with someone else and look at someone else's writing to help them at their stuff, and they can help you edit your stuff. One thing, though. You have got to print it out to do this, because you will not be able to see half as much on your computer as you will be able to see if you actually see it on paper. There's a lot of push now, you know, to not use paper because it's wasteful. It's it's expensive. It uses ink, whatever. But I really think that the Onley good way to edit E written brief, especially if it's really long, is. If you can see it and hold it and touch it on a piece of paper, you're just not going to be able to do it on a computer. What can I recommend to get ahead before law school starts before maybe before you even apply to law school? Or you know that you're headed into law school in the near future? Well, some of the things that are challenging me challenging about L. R. W. Is the learning curve, so it's not just the writing, but it's the language. It's the style. It's cases air just really unfamiliar. If you don't have any experience in the legal world, So you want to start getting your brain trained to consume this kind of information and to think in this kind of information. So I would be looking, for example, legal memos online to just read. You may learn some stuff you may not, but again, it's just getting familiar with the language and flow of these. And don't be surprised or feel bad if you start reading these memos and your eyes glaze over or you feel super bored because this is legal. Writing okay, with the writing is boring. There's a couple reasons for that. One is you're not involved in the case. So if you are involved in the Keys and all of this law is really, really important to your case, it's actually quite interesting. So don't blame yourself. Don't feel like you're stupid because you're looking at a memo and you would rather watch paint dry, then read the memo. The reason that you were bored while reading this memo is one. You don't understand what it is that they're trying to communicate and how, and two you're not involved in it, so you have zero interest in being interested and engaged with this particular memo, I would see, if possible. If the there are any textbooks available that I could get into and start reading if you can somehow find the syllabus for the class is for the law school that you're you know you're going to be going to, you know, maybe last year. Syllabus. Oh, are you confined a use copy of the text books online, either for L. R W or for any of your other classes, like sitting down and starting to dive into these books to start reading cases and start getting handle on this language? There's so much that happens in the first few months in law school and you really get I guess it makes it hard to be successful in those first few months simply because your training your brain to get used to this language. You know, just it's so hard to go through and read cases and really get a lot out of them and understand them because you don't know what it is that you're doing. So if you can start that learning curve before you get into law school, it can be really helpful. And finally, you know, we talked a lot about the structure of legal writing in this in this course, but we didn't talk about citations. Citations is a whole another ball of wax, even though they lump it into alert of you. Citations is something that you'll, um, you'll have to learn. But I would I'm going to cover in a separate video just because it is so complicated on its own. You may have different style guides, depending upon the law school that you go to, but the Blue Book legal citation and all would a L W D. Those air to really common citation books that you may end up using in law school. And so, if you confined used versions of those and you know either in your local library or the law library or just something, t get a look at him and to see what it is that you're going to be dealing with. That can be really helpful. And that's it. This is my 30 minute introduction to legal writing for law school. You'll have to check back to my profile because I have been planning on uploading a lot. Mawr Law School prep content in the future. I would like to publish them courses about the various one l or first year law school classes, such a silver procedure and constitutional law criminal law just so that you have an opportunity to start digging into what these courses are going to be about. It will give you more guidance about what it is that you need to do to get prepared for law school and hopefully just kill some of that really, really horrible learning curve that's gonna hit you when it is that you do eventually check out law school. Thank you so much for watching, and I hope to see you in another course.