Memoir and Legal Education

[1st Class]

Class 1: Read the course syllabus. Using the syllabus as a rough guide, peruse the resources on memoir writing, creative nonfiction, reflective writing, and life stories/telling our lives on the course resources webpage.

Class1 Writing: In a couple of paragraphs (or a single double-spaced page of typing) respond to the follow question: What brought you to law school?

In your first draft of this writing, don't worry about an audience, or trying to do anything fancy. You might think of what you are doing in this first draft as being a journalist, reporting on this singular aspect of your life. You are just trying to report, as best you can, on how you now happen to be where you are.

I call this first writing a draft. After you have done this little bit of writing, you'll want to clean it up. By clean it up, I mean: check for typos and misspellings, try to get the grammar and punctuation aligned as best you can to standard usage. [Grammar and Spelling]

Now, that you've got a working draft of What Brought You to Law School? you'll want to take another look at it. In producing this draft, I suggest that you think about what you are doing as simply investigative journalism: Something has happened and you are trying to write about it, trying to explain it so others can understand what has happened. With the draft in hand, you can now take another look at it and think about what you've written from a somewhat different perspective: 1) Do you find anything in this first draft that seems to cry out for further explanation or further inquiry? 2) Is there anything in this first draft that would be remotely interesting to anyone other than your closest friends and immediate family? 3) Is there a sentence (or even a single phrase) in this draft that seems to stand out from its neighbors? By stand out, I mean, a sentence that seems to embody or express--to encode--the essence of what you are trying to say. You may not find such a sentence or phrase. Look for a sentence or phrase that seems to be more expressive, or written for more purposeful effect, than the declarative sentences (or phrases) that surround it.

[If you find this writing exercise of interest, and are generally interested in improving your writing, I recommend that you acquire a copy of Peter Elbow's Writing with Power: Techniques for Mastering the Writing Process (Oxford University Press, 2nd ed., 1998). The 2nd edition is a reprint of the 1st edition with a new preface. Consequently, the 1981 1st ed. available at less than $4 from is a great bargain. In my view, Elbow's Writing with Power is the best book on writing among the many I have read over the years.]