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Monday, October 06, 2008

What Should an LRW Program Try to Achieve?

There is wide variation among LRW programs.  Generally speaking, though, they teach a set of practical lawyering skills that students are unlikely to get from their doctrinal classes.  The most obvious of these skills is the ability to produce certain genres of legal documents, usually including predictive memoranda and briefs, and also (in some programs) case briefs, letters, file memos, contracts, or judicial opinions.  Many programs also introduce students to legal research techniques (more on that in another post) and oral argument.

But this is a very narrow way of thinking about these problems--really just a recitation of the types of assignments that students are likely to complete in an LRW course; this description doesn't account for the broader goals that LRW programs aspire to.

Here's how I would frame it: doctrinal classes, per the old trope, teach students to think like lawyers; lrw programs teach (or should teach, or should try to teach) students how to act like lawyers.  To put it otherwise, the major preoccupation of first semester doctrinal courses is to teach students how to read and understand the law, while the goal of the LRW program is to teach students to use the law to help a real person solve her real life problem using a set of professional tools.

In my next posts, I will explain why I think it is useful to think of an LRW program in this way, and more broadly, why it is worthwhile for us--primarily doctrinal faculty, but also law schools more generally--to think about LRW programs at all.  I'll then tackle the practical aspects of LRW program: how to implement the goal I have identified; who should teach LRW; how to think about IRAC; teaching research; and so forth.

Posted by Hillel Levin on October 6, 2008 at 01:36 PM in Hillel Levin, Life of Law Schools, Teaching Law | Permalink


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LRW in most schools is much more of a legal reasoning class than a writing or research class. Objective writing, which predominates most first semesters, is less "real life" problem solving than it is simple analysis -- reading and understanding the law (thinking like a lawyer)-- and then putting it on paper. It may best be distinguished from thinking like a law professor (what I think you mean by lawyer) by the emphasis on deductive reasoning (which most doctrinal courses resort to on the final exam - and which I liken to a large and time-constrained LRW "closed memorandum" assignment). LRW never approaches the full-on strategies of litigation or negotiation that are a lawyer's professional tools.

As most people know, reasoning rarely takes full shape until it is put on paper. And LRW is little more than the first chance that students get to test their legal reasoning on paper.

Posted by: Craig | Oct 6, 2008 9:37:16 PM


Stay tuned for my post on bringing LRW (or the principles that I am suggesting) into the doctrinal classroom!

Posted by: Hillel Levin | Oct 6, 2008 7:08:08 PM

This seems like a sensible and interesting way of framing division between doctrinal/LRW goals, as we tend to do things now, but I think Carnegie report has overriding message that we need to orient all classes towards acting like a lawyer, which I'm trying to do a bit now.

Posted by: Jason Solomon | Oct 6, 2008 6:29:14 PM

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