Lawyer as Writer

Course Syllabus
Fall, 2000

 "Lawyer as Writer" is a workshop rather than a survey course. Consequently, we will spend our time writing, editing, and talking about writing rather than conducting a historical (or contemporary) survey of the kind of writing lawyers do and the quality of that writing.

  The fundamental assumption in this course is that good writing and developing a sense of oneself as a writer is fungible, that is, transferable from one kind of writing to another. This assumption, I should point out, runs counter to the assumption of most legal writing programs that legal writing is a technical art and must be learned as such. Consequently, there will be no effort in this course to focus on or limit our attention to the specific forms of writing that lawyers devote their attention. The work of this course consists of writing. We will experiment with doing some writing and editing in class.

 We will spend some time talking about legal writing and the special problems it poses. We will work with legal writings you have already produced for that part of the course and try to use what we are doing in the course as the basis for a strategy to be more effective in your legal writing.

 One problem of writing courses is that you are asked to do writing exercises and the only audience for your writing is the course instructor. Writing workshops often extend the audience to fellow participants in the workshop and we are going to follow this "workshop model" in this course. Be advised: Your writings in this course will be shared with colleagues unless you specifically direct otherwise.

 The assigned book for the course is Peter Elbow, Writing With Power: Techniques for Mastering the Writing Process (New York: Oxford University Press, 2nd ed., 1998) (1981). There are enough books on writing to fill a small home library, and while I've read a significant number of them, none quite equal Peter Elbow's Writing With Power. Elbow, as most writer instructors, has his own views about what stands in the way of our efforts to write. I've learned a great deal from Elbow, and will make substantial use of his ideas in the course. Again, you should be forewarned; Elbow's ideas often run counter to what you have been taught about legal writing in law school. There is a course Web site and you will be expected to make use of it during the course of the semester. Writing assignments and communications to course participants will be posted on the Web site.

  Home Page