Insights From Legal Writing Prof

As I was frantically trying to clear out my emails to stay under my disk quota, I ran across an email sent to the faculty by Barbara Blumenfeld, our Legal Research and Writing Director. I had saved it because I liked it. I thought it could use a broader audience so I asked her if I could post it. She graciously gave her permission. Here it is:

This past summer the Legal Writing Director’s conference focused on “Best Practices in Teaching, Management, and Scholarship.” We had several speakers and workshops on both the Best Practices and Educating Lawyers books. This reflects the fact that legal writing has been concerned with and teaching using many of what are the “best practices” for twenty years or more.
One of our plenary speakers was Judith Wegner, one of the authors of Educating Lawyers. Some of her comments reflect what you already know if you have explored the legal writing literature or talked with legal writing professionals: that legal writing is not an English class but is about reasoning and argumentation and that its pedagogy can lend insight to legal education generally. That is, it teaches legal communication and problem solving. Professor Wegner noted many of the special virtues of legal writing pedagogy, including:
* Bringing together content knowledge and practical skills in close interaction
* Allowing “time out” to observe/analyze thinking
* Fostering of the development of metacognition
* Tacit structure that models professional practice and self-awareness
* Integration of “practice” and professional identity with theory/cognition
Since lawyers are generally communicating a legal proof to a variety of audiences, legal writing must teach the skills necessary to develop that proof as well as to communicate it. Those skills are many of the skills noted as essential to training lawyers. Legal writing professionals have been studying learning theory and applying it to this teaching task for many years. Your UNM legal writing faculty would be delighted to discuss these thoughts and legal writing pedagogy with you more, either individually or perhaps as a panel at a dean’s hour or something similar.

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