Memoir and Legal Education

[2nd Class]

Class 2: Readings

Introduction to the Course. In my introduction to the course, I talked about the importance of James Boyd White's work in becoming the teacher that I am. I was reading The Legal Imagination along with the textbooks I assigned students in Criminal Law and Administrative Law when I began teaching law 1975. I think you'll see from White's "introduction to the Student" in The Legal Imagination that it outlines a different vision of legal education. White's thinking about legal education has definitely found its way into my work as a teacher, including my early efforts to write about legal education.

"Introduction to the Student," in James Boyd White's The Legal Imagination (1973).

James R. Elkins, Imagination and Creativity in Lawyering: A Report on a Law School Seminar, 3 ALSA F. 13 (1978) [on-line text]

Introduction to Law Student Reflective Writing. When I joined the faculty of the College of Law at West Virginia University in 1977 we had an "Introduction to Law" course in the first year course offerings. I used William Bishin and Christopher Stone's book, Law, Language and Ethics in that course and decided to allow students the option of a keeping a journal for that course, a journal that would allow them to record and keep track of how they were being introduced to law, that is, what they were learning and how that learning was being done and its effects on them. I did not have the faintest idea what those journals might turn out to be. What I found in those journals resulted in a series of articles about the law school experience as it was being described in the journals. [See: The Quest for Meaning: Narrative Accounts of Legal Education, 38 J. Legal Educ. 577 (1988); Rites of Passage: Law Students "Telling Their Lives," 35 J. Legal Educ. 27 (1985); Becoming a Lawyer: The Transformation of Self During Legal Education, 66 Soundings 450-468 (Winter, 1983); Coping Strategies in Legal Education, 16 The Law Teacher 195-210 (1982)]

James R. Elkins, Writing Our Lives: Making Introspective Writing a Part of Legal Education, 29 Willamette L. Rev. 45- (1993) [on-line text]

"Writing the Stories," a section of a symposium issue of the Legal Studies Forum of writings by women in a "Women and the Legal Profession" course. [Writing the Stories] [For the background on the writing in the "Women and Legal Profession" course, see: preface & postscript][Worlds of Silence: Women in Law School, 8 ALSA F. 1-124 (1984)]

When we talk about writing in legal education, we inevitably talk about legal writing. I continue to find it curious that teachers of legal writing in law schools continue to set apart legal writing as if it could be done without any sense of actually being a writer. In teaching Appellate Advocacy, I addressed this issue directly and inquired of students: Are you a writer? What kind of image of yourself do you have as a writer?

James R. Elkins, The Things They Carry Into Legal Writing (and Legal Education), 22 Legal Stud. F. 749(1998) [on-line text]

I noted in the course syllabus my recommendation that you consider acquiring a copy of Peter Elbow's Writing with Power.

Law Teachers Who Write. There are law teachers who write and those who do not. I have tried to establish my place among those who write. For those of us who do, and for those who don't, there is the question: Why Write? In a short, unpublished essay, "Why We Write," I offer a prologue to what I trust will some day be a larger work.

In Class. For our 2nd class, peruse the various articles and essays I provided you in class and we'll try to talk about this idea of reflective writing and the place it might have in a lawyer's life. You should also peruse the "reflective writing" resources found on the course web resources page.

Class2 Writing: In Writing1 you were asked to write about what brought you to law school. In this 2nd writing, try to expand upon this first foray. What kind of reservations or doubts did you have about taking up the study of law? What kind of obstacles did you confront in making the decision a reality? What kind of "costs" do you associate with coming to law school? If you had not elected to come to law school is there another road, "the road not taken," that you can now identify? [See, Robert Frost, "The Road Not Taken"]