Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Going Beyond Checklists in Legal Writing

As I prepare to lead a Scribes Student Legal Writing Society discussion on "good legal writing," I am reminded of my post yesterday on using checklists to teach legal research and writing.

A wonderful article by Professor Mark Osbeck called What is "Good Legal Writing" and Why Does it Matter? underscores the importance of going beyond checklists.

As Osbeck mentions:
Legal writing that is clear, concise, and engaging is good writing. Yet there is something about the very best examples of legal writing that goes beyond these three fundamental qualities. 

Writers do not become proficient at their craft by memorizing a lot of picayune rules, or by applying checklists to their writing. They become proficient by reading the works of good writers and by practicing their own writing. 

He goes on to recommend a pedagogical structure that highlights the foundations of good legal writing: clarity, conciseness, and engagement. Then using things like checklists and rules to highlight the importance of the overall foundations so that the students understand the rules in context.

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