Law School Legal Writing Instructors Share Their Thoughts
NOVEMBER 7, 2011—The fall 2011 issue of With Equal Right features the Law School’s Legal Writing Program through essays by three of its instructors: Pamela Siege Chandler (’95), also senior director of law school publishing at Thomson Reuters; attorney Nadia Wood (’10), who has her own appellate and trial motion legal writing services practice; and third-year student Nadia Aboussir (’12).
The Legal Writing Program, directed by Prof. Brad Clary with support from Program Assistant Susan Miller, divides first-year students into small groups of eight to ten and pairs them with an adjunct professor and an upper-level student instructor. The small groups stay together for the school year, working on a variety of writing projects.
"I truly believe that legal writing is the most important class offered in the first year of law school," Aboussir says. With that thought in mind, she applied to be a student instructor to help entering students with a skill she believes is "at the heart of the legal profession." Along the way, Aboussir has developed an even deeper appreciation for good writing, plus she says she has "gained more from teaching than I can ever hope to have given my students."
Chandler, a six-year veteran of the Legal Writing Program, agrees. "What started as an opportunity to test the waters to see if I might enjoy teaching has turned into one of the more professionally satisfying things I do," she says, adding that "there is something truly energizing about watching students evolve during their first year of law school." Her role evolves as the year goes on, she says, from instructor to coach—from introducing reading, analysis, and communication skills to helping students refine use of these skills for classes and legal situations to come.
Wood, whose practice focuses on legal writing, enjoys the first-day-of-school excitement and the "challenges of introducing a new class of writers to our remarkable profession." Regularly surprised by the reserved student who shines during oral arguments or the confident speaker who fails to write persuasively, she makes no assumptions about success. "My students remind me that persistence and hard work often beat genius and raw talent," she says. Determined to better reach her students and help them understand "that even the most basic elements of style such as structure and organization can make a big difference in readability," she’s planning some new strategies for her latest class.
In addition to personal satisfaction, all three instructors report concrete benefits from their work. Aboussir says she learned to work on a team, became a more conscientious reader, and improved her analytical, writing, editing, and speaking skills, all of which will make her a better lawyer. For Chandler, responsible for products and services development at Thomson Reuters, working with students "helps me understand their learning styles so our business can do a better job of meeting their needs." Woods' message reaches beyond the classroom: "My students and their unbridled enthusiasm inspire me to look for creative solutions to challenges."
With Equal Right is the official journal of Minnesota Women Lawyers. To read the full article, go to http://mwlawyers.org/associations/11636/WithEqualRight/?nbr=112.