Legal Writing A Workshop for Law Students O-Week 2007 Click here to listen
Learning Outcomes At the end of this workshop, students will be able to: ► identify what WRITING is ► list various types of writing they may be expected to produce as law students ► describe hallmarks of good writing (including good legal writing) ► describe the process of writing ► identify tools or processes to assist them in producing good quality writing
What is Writing? ► using symbols to represent ideas ► communicating in a permanent way ► marking paper with a pencil ► typing putting letters into words words into sentences sentences into paragraphs …in a way that someone else understands what we are trying to say
What can writing offer me? ► learning tool organising your ideas reflecting on what you’ve learned synthesising research & your own experiences ► vehicle for feedback from the instructor highlights deficiencies & skills affirms your progress ► produces finished written pieces practice for professional skills advances/consolidates thinking in your discipline
Legal Writing? ► problem solving: I identify the Issue R state the Rule or principle A Apply it to the facts C reach a Conclusion ► advices: letters, memos ► case notes ► judgements ► briefs ► deeds, agreements, pleadings - legal drafting
The Writing Process ► pre-writing ► structure & draft ► reflection & rewrite ► proofread, edit & polish Give yourself enough time Reflect on your own process
Pre-writing ► ► purpose in assessment: to find out what you know & how you process that knowledge to ANSWER THE QUESTION ► ► scope eg provide the client with statement of their rights & responsibilities eg analyse the development in the law since the XXX Act what detail do you require? general or specific? ► ► audience ‘advise X’; ‘write a brief’; ‘deliver a judgement’ ‘compare’; ‘discuss’; ‘analyse’; ‘do you agree’ lawyer to lawyer advice in legal language, citing authority don’t skip bits of your argument because you assume the audience already knows it: state the issue, state the rule, cite the authority
Structure ► introduction – eg state the topic outline what you’ll cover identify the relevance of the topic define terms ► body develop the major theme logically ► for problem-style question, if a series of issues/parties, address one at a time use smaller themes; link themes together – build up the argument ► for problem-style question, state: issue; rule/principle; apply the rule to the facts ► conclusion must CONCLUDE something not just a summary this is your destination for problem-style questions: state solution to answer the question Adapted from J Roebuck, Legal Writing for Undergraduate Law Students (3rd ed, 2003).
Research ► Take notes This is more than simply highlighting Use the physical act of writing to process the information you read ► Evaluate your sources Use PRIMARY sources whenever you can Use SECONDARY sources – refereed journal articles, commentary Wikipedia has its limitations!!
Draft ► just do it! ► free flow of ideas ► look at JCU Language & Learning Services online workshops on mind mapping & free thinking ► this is a technique for developing your argument, not the final paper ► remember you’ll cogitate & rewrite Applies more to assignments than exams
Reflection & Rewrite ► Making order out of chaos ► Leave time in your program to take this step ► Without this step, you will submit only a draft assignment. You can do better!
CHECKLIST FOR REVISION ► question is answered ► Introduction identifies topic ► Ideas are adequately developed: evidence backs up each topic sentence ► Paragraphs are unified and coherent Paragraph placement shows inherent logical order Each paragraph serves a logical purpose Paragraphs flow smoothly from one to another ► Sentences are clear and complete Could they be more concise? Can they be cut: announcing what you are going to say or that sum up what have already said? ► Conclusion refers back to topic: answers the question ► Formatting is correct: word count, margins, justification, line spacing ► All quotes and ideas are referenced according to AGLC  Adapted from The Writing Center's Revision Checklist and Editing Guidelines University Writing Centre, George Mason University at 19 January 2006; and Redrafting Checklist Online Learning Skills Resources, James Cook University http://www.jcu.edu.au/studying/services/studyskills/online.html at 19 February 2007. http://www.gmu.edu/departments/writingcenter/handouts/check.html http://www.jcu.edu.au/studying/services/studyskills/online.html http://www.gmu.edu/departments/writingcenter/handouts/check.html http://www.jcu.edu.au/studying/services/studyskills/online.html
Some Hallmarks of Good Writing And some ideas on how to achieve them
It’s your own work ► keep up to date in your uni work ► take notes, summarise ► read widely ► think ► talk to people about the topic
Demonstrates your understanding of the issues ► think ► plan – outline, mind map etc ► answer the question ► work out scope of the work ► identify main theme, keep it in mind ► pose questions on the topic ► read widely
Logically organised ► use outline to set structure, check logic ► summarise paper to dot points ► use revision checklist: does each new idea lead into next? ► use headings ► have another person read the paper ► talk to the markers
Well expressed: clear and concise using plain language read widely to see examples of good writing read widely to see examples of good writing read the paper aloud read the paper aloud use headings use headings have another person read the paper have another person read the paper use the AGLC or dictionary or thesaurus use the AGLC or dictionary or thesaurus talk to the markers talk to the markers be self-reflective; journal your writing process be self-reflective; journal your writing process
Contains few if any grammar, spelling, punctuation errors ► have another person read the paper ► use the AGLC, dictionary, thesaurus, spell & grammar check on computer ► practise self-editing ► highlight a few consistent errors & make a note of them: self edit for those errors ► care about punctuation & grammar – take pride ► talk to the markers
Cites authorities for every proposition ► include this in revision checklist ► incorporate this in your note-taking ► develop system of note-taking to incorporate in your draft (eg card system) ► focus on self-editing for this
Contains accurate referencing in the preferred style ► use the AGLC at all times ► incorporate in your revision checklist ► develop a system of note-taking to incorporate in your draft (eg card system)
Is formatted in the required way ► ask what are the requirements! ► check margin & line spacing