Lawyering Skills: Teaching first-year students legal reasoning, writing and research

First-year students spend most of their time in doctrinal classes like Contracts and Torts. Lawyering, in contrast, provides students with the practical skills that are necessary in law school. In this class, students receive an overview of the legal system, learn things like how to brief cases and cite using Bluebook format, and get a short review on grammar.

The main focus of the class is writing memos. The first assignment, the closed memo, is largely practice for the open memo. For the memo, students are presented with a legal question and asked to use relevant legal sources to analyze the issue and present an answer. Students learn skills used in legal reasoning and how to structure an office memo. The closed memo is “closed” because the sources for comparison are provided with the assignment. It is a multi-step assignment, and most steps are completion-only grades. This gives students several opportunities to improve their memo-writing skills before the open memo, which is the major assignment in the first semester of Lawyering.

In writing the open memo, students employ nearly everything they have learned in Lawyering up to that point through research, analysis and writing. The step-by-step guidance and practical training found in Lawyering separates it from other first-year classes and works with those classes to provide first-year students with a broad legal education.

Alyssa Boone, 1L and Student Ambassador