undergraduate section

ENGCMP 0410 Writing in the Legal Professions

“Legal writers do not write in a vacuum; they write in order to accomplish specific objectives (e.g., to persuade a court of a certain position or to explain a point of law to a client). Legal writing is an inherently social activity in which the legal writer puts pen to paper in order to have a certain effect on a target audience…The value of elegance in writing does not principally reside in its functionality. Rather, elegance adds value to writing for the same reason that beauty is valuable in any human endeavor: it gives expression to mankind’s essential creative nature.” – Mark Osbeck, What Is “Good Legal Writing” and Why Does It Matter?

Course Description

This course focuses on the rhetoric of law and the ways that legal texts create a culture and a world through the language and arguments they employ. Students interested in law, rhetoric, and questions of cultural construction should find this course of interest. The course will use literacy texts and the works of legal scholars to consider how arguments, evidence, testimony, assertions, assumptions and judgments constitute a set of public issues and values.

This course satisfies the Writing-intensive requirement.

Sample Student Projects

All students in the course prepare a professional-level legal memo applying Supreme Court precedent to a hypothetical based on First Amendment-related current events surrounding speech.

Recent Course Faculty

Peter Campbell

Kathleen Davies

Sarah Hakimzadeh

Nancy Koerbel: “In his book Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates describes the craft of writing as ‘the art of thinking’—a way to confront his own innocence and rationalizations. Coates is talking about poetry, but in many ways, legal writing is closer to poetry than you might think. Good legal writing also requires your attention and imagination, and it incorporates economy, precision, and clear thinking in much the same way good poetry does.

A primary goal of Writing in the Legal Professions is for you to develop the foundational critical thinking and writing skills necessary to succeed as a well-informed and educated citizen, to form a legal literacy that will assist you in your life and your career. If you are interested in the law, this class will expose you to the kinds of reading, writing, and thinking you will encounter in law school and in legally-oriented careers. But this is not exclusively a ‘pre-law’ class. One of my core assumptions is that the skills you develop in this class are applicable to all professional writing.”

Recent Student Testimonials

“All students and the professor were deeply engaged in the material and were encouraged to think critically about the assignments.”

“I liked the open discussions that the professor facilitated concerning the course content.”

“[I liked how] how student–driven it was! Not just the professor lecturing us, but actually engaging us and making us think for ourselves.”

“From the beginning of the class to its end, I began to notice the improvements I began to make on my papers, and it began to translate for other assignments in other classes as well.”

“I also thought the professor was very open to questions and giving further information, which was helpful. It was also good to tie in the content (First Amendment) to current events.”