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First-year students find their authentic voice

Throughout this full-year course, the legal writing professors consistently work with students to consider their professional identities as colleagues, writers, Brooklyn Law School ambassadors, and eventual lawyers. We place a high priority on respect for one another, our future clients, our adversaries, the court, the art of legal writing, the rule of law, and the legal system as a whole.

Fall Semester

In the Fall semester, we focus on objective legal analysis, analyzing a client’s factual circumstances, carefully reading statutes and case law to extract a legal rule, applying the elements or factors of the legal rule to the client’s facts, weighing the strengths and weaknesses of the client’s position, and then predicting likely legal outcomes. Students learn how to write a logical objective legal analysis in the form of a document routinely used by lawyers in day-to-day practice: the legal memorandum, for which the intended audience is a supervising attorney, and potentially the client. Students also will learn how to draft a professional email report to a supervising attorney or a client summarizing the impact of a particular law on a client’s circumstances. Additionally, students step into the world of legal research, gaining competence in how to efficiently (and cost-effectively) find applicable statutes, regulations, case law, and treatises on the relevant legal issues.

Spring Semester

In the 2019-2020 academic year, Brooklyn law School launched a new spring course in the 1L Legal Writing Program called Gateway to Lawyering. The new spring Gateway course is designed with three primary goals: (1) to introduce 1L students to subject matter areas of interest and specialization in the context of legal writing, and endeavor to give students a choice in their substantive subject matter area of focus in their spring legal writing course; (2) to develop and deepen students’ statutory reading and interpretation skills in the context of a particular substantive area of law; and (3) to expose students to a wider range of legal writing genres than traditional legal writing courses do.

In the second year of this new Gateway course, we are planning four Gateway courses focused on these subject matter areas of emphasis: (1) Law and Business, (2) Law and Information, (3) Law and Social Change, and (4) Law and Individual Life. Students in each Gateway will complete three types of written assignments: (1) a descriptive piece of writing, through which students will answer a client’s legal question through reading, parsing, and applying the statute; (2) a “transactional” document, such as a contract or settlement agreement related to the hypothetical client scenario; and (3) a substantial, persuasive, advocacy piece, such as a brief, in which students will use case law to further interpret the statute.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the first year, students will develop analytical, research, writing, and oral advocacy skills to engage in predictive and persuasive legal analysis and argument. The following are the Learning Outcomes of Brooklyn Law School's 1L Legal Writing Program:

 

Context within the Legal System
  • Understand the basic differences between representing a client in a civil matter and in a criminal matter
  • Understand the basic differences between representing a client in a transactional context and in a litigation context
  • Understand the basic progression of a client representation in a litigation context
  • Understand the basic progression of a client representation in a transactional context
  • Identify the different types of legal documents that lawyers write while representing a client
  • Understand the overall structure of the American legal system, on the federal and state levels
  • Understand the doctrine of stare decisis and the role of precedent
  • Understand the interplay between statutes and case law
Legal Research Skills
  • Understand the hierarchical structure of the law and the difference between binding and persuasive authority
  • Understand the difference between primary sources of law and secondary sources
  • Strategize and identify effective research methodologies
  • Understand how to find statutes, regulations, case law, and treatises (and other secondary legal research sources) on a specific legal issue in the proper jurisdiction
  • Understand how to ensure that the primary sources of law are up-to-date
  • Conduct legal research in a cost-effective manner using an assortment of print, fee-based, and free computer resources
Legal Writing Skills
  • Understand methods of communicating predictive and persuasive legal analysis using contemporary “best-practices” used by attorneys in today’s legal marketplace
  • Employ effective written organizational techniques including large-scale (thesis paragraphs, issues organization, conclusions) and small-scale (thesis/topic sentences, examination and application of relevant case law, presentation of opposing arguments) organizational principles
  • Craft effective topic sentences and transitions
  • Structure effective paragraphs (exhibiting unity and coherence)
  • Use principles of good grammar, syntax, and punctuation
  • Use proper legal terminology and vocabulary
  • Properly cite to sources of law in a piece of legal writing using The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation, and adhere to jurisdictional legal citation rules
  • Develop tone and diction appropriate to a targeted legal audience
  • Develop an overarching writing ethic emphasizing clear and concise legal writing, using plain English
    Objective Legal Analysis
    • Gather and review facts to understand a client’s circumstances
    • Identify the precise legal issue(s) affecting a client’s circumstances
    • Carefully read a statute and extract one or more legal rules
    • Carefully read a case (a judicial opinion), identify its key component parts, and extract the legal issue(s), the applicable rule(s), and the court’s holding (decision on the legal issue)
    • Identify the court’s reasoning in a case and analyze its relevance to a client-centered problem
    • Synthesize a legal rule from statutes and multiple cases
    • Identify legally significant client facts
    • Analogize and distinguish case law facts and client facts
    • Apply a legal rule to the legally significant client facts
    • Identify strengths and weaknesses of a client’s legal position
    • Identify legally viable alternative arguments
    • Evaluate public policy considerations and their role in the formation and application of rules
    • Assess facts and law to solve legal problems and make client-centered recommendations as expected of new attorneys
    • Understand the importance of adherence to instructions (substantive content, formatting, length, deadlines, and other expectations) given by a supervising attorney
    • Structure and draft a logical and objective written analysis of a legal issue
    • Identify logic gaps and assumptions in a piece of objective legal writing
    • Edit and proofread a piece of objective legal writing
    Oral Communications
    • Understanding individual differences and strengths in the way we communicate orally
    • Amplifying our individual advocacy voices authentically and effectively
    • Enhancing our emotional intelligence when interacting with others through oral communications
    • Orally presenting legal information in client-centered contexts
    Persuasive Legal Analysis
    • Understand the roles of logic, emotion, and ethics in legal persuasion
    • Understand the importance of adherence to procedural court rules and formatting requirements governing submissions of legal writing to a court
    • Learn rhetorical techniques for framing legal issues and arguments to persuade a court
    • Understand the difference between a trial-level brief and an appellate brief
    • Understand the basics of appellate “standards of review” of trial court decisions
    • Structure and draft a logical, persuasive, written analysis of a legal issue
    • Identify logic gaps and assumptions in a piece of persuasive legal writing
    • Evaluate and present arguments in a client-centered context
    • Edit and proofread a piece of persuasive legal writing
    • Develop an ethical appreciation for the tenets of good advocacy consistent with the Model Code of Professional Responsibility and the highest standards of professionalism
    Professional Identity
    • Consider one’s professional identity as a student, colleague, writer, Brooklyn Law School ambassador, scholar, advocate, and lawyer
    • Interact with others regarding legal concepts with thoughtfulness, clarity, logic, and respect
    • Recognize and respect the importance of legal research and writing throughout the law school experience and throughout law practice
    • Recognize the importance of professionalism in the study and practice of law including honesty, timeliness, courtesy, and quality of work product
    • Recognize the importance of compliance with the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct
    Recognition and Appreciation of the Importance of Cultural Awareness/Humility/Competence
    • Recognizing the multidimensional nature of self-identity and social, cultural, and historical influences
    • Recognizing and understanding categories of otherness and related oppression
    • Developing a basic understanding of systemic versus individual and diverse types of privilege systems
    • Identifying categories of dominant/target groups, and systematic advantages and disadvantages that that may affect students’ law school experience and classmates
    • Evaluating and acknowledging the limitations of students’ own cultural perspectives in communicating with others
    • Understanding the difference between cultural humility and cultural competence and the limitations of the cultural competence framework
    • Identifying ways in which the implementation of cultural humility will improve the law school environment and the legal profession
    • Appreciating cultural humility as a lifelong reflective process
    Recognition and Appreciation of the Importance of Law Student and Attorney Well-Being
    • Gaining knowledge and understanding of factors that can affect law student and lawyer well-being
    • Enhancing awareness of resources to support law student and lawyer well-being
    • Enhancing awareness and understanding of lawyer well-being as a professional responsibility to our clients
    Self-Assessment & Collaborative Learning
    • Learn to give and be receptive to critical feedback in a professional, supportive manner
    • Incorporate and apply feedback and critique in the legal drafting and editing process
    • Reflect on personal strengths and challenges in the legal writing classroom
    • Learn to self-edit and to critically evaluate one’s own work
    • Manage time to accomplish legal research and writing assignments in a thorough and timely manner, while balancing other law school responsibilities
    Statutory Frameworks and Client Alert Module
    • Understanding how statutory frameworks are structured
    • Understanding the interplay between and among statutes and regulations
    • Understanding different approaches to, and techniques involved in, statutory interpretation
    • Drafting a Client Alert to explain a statutory and regulatory framework to a client in a clear, concise, informative manner
    Transactional Module
    • Preparing for and conducting a negotiation
    • Understanding the basic components of a contract
    • Drafting a negotiation term sheet and a transactional document
    • Understanding the ethics implicated in drafting a contract after a negotiation
    • Incorporating changes to contract provisions