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Teaching Legal Writing Online


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Fourth Legal Education Symposium, University of Limerick, May 2010.

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Teaching Legal Writing Online

  1. 1. Teaching Legal WritingOnlineLarry Donnelly, NUI GalwayDr. Elaine Fahey, Dublin Institute of TechnologyRónán Kennedy, NUI GalwayJennifer Schweppe, University of Limerick4th Irish Legal Education SymposiumUniversity of Limerick14 May 2010
  2. 2. Teaching legal writing is hard work!o  “This teaching was the most demanding, and in some ways the most tedious, teaching I have ever done. It was tedious in the sense of grading individual papers for every student every three weeks and going over each one line-by-line with the students. . .”
  3. 3. But it’s extremely important.o  "Legal writing is one of the most important courses in law school. It helps students develop analytical and writing skills that will be crucial to them, their clients, and the legal system. Simply put, good writing is essential to good lawyering."
  4. 4. Realities and challenges in Irishlegal educationo  legal writing was not a part of the traditional curriculumo  division – still persisting – between third-level legal education and professional schoolso  need to introduce practical skill training at an early stage
  5. 5. Realities and challenges in Irishlegal education (cont.)o  very large student numbers and limited resourceso  remedial help often neededo  extremely labour intensive teaching – competing demands and pressures on academicso  student attendance and engagement?o  lack of a distinctively Irish approach to teaching legal writing
  6. 6. NUI Galway as case studyo  approximately 270 students each year across four degree programmes take a one semester or full year introductory legal research and writing moduleo  continuously assessed – four minor and one major writing assignments (more assignments for students in the full year module)o  LL.M. students also take an advanced legal research and writing module
  7. 7. Moving online: competing realitieso  “An online component has the potential to multiply the levels of learning in a course and enrich each student’s individual experience, as well as the collective work of the class.”o  but. . .o  “As with all teaching methods and models, it has to be used properly and be ‘the right tool for the right job.’”
  8. 8. Legalwriting.ieo  Texts developed collaboratively using MediaWikio  Interactive web site under development using Moodleo  Feedback will be obtained using Vovici
  9. 9. Demonstrationo  Reading materialo  Self-assessment exerciseso  Tutor-marked exerciseso  Automation of gradingo  Creating new exercises
  10. 10. A final thought. . .o  “Most members of law firms tell me that the young men who are coming to them today cannot write well. I think the situation has reached epidemic proportions. . .”o  A speech by Dean William Warren of Columbia Law School in 1958
  11. 11. Bibliographyo  Lawrence Donnelly, “Irish Clinical Legal Education Ab Initio: Challenges and Opportunities,” (2008/2009) 13 International Journal of Clinical Legal Education 56.o  Emily Finch and Stefan Fafinski, Legal Skills (Oxford, 2nd Ed. 2009).o  James Gordon III, “An Integrated First-Year Legal Writing Program,” 39 Journal of Legal Education 609 (1989).o  Roy Mersky, “Teaching Legal Research,” 2 Scribes Journal of Legal Writing 148 (1991).o  Thomas O’Malley, Sources of Law (Dublin, 2nd Ed., 2001).o  Joseph Rosenberg, “Confronting Clichés in Online Instruction: Using a Hybrid Model To Teach Lawyering Skills,” 12 SMU Science and Technology Law Review 19 (2008).o  Kent Syverud, “Better Writing, Better Thinking: Concluding Thoughts,” 10 Legal Writing: The Journal of the Legal Writing Institute 83 (2004).