No matter what a student’s previous education and experiences are, learning to think like a lawyer—let alone write like a lawyer on a law school exam—can be as challenging as it is fascinating.
The Law School and the broader University provide many resources to help students understand their learning style, to prepare for and get the most out of class and, ultimately, to reach their individual potential on law school exams.
Our faculty members support student learning with regular office hours and by inviting questions and feedback from students about their progress in a given course. 1L students also are matched with a faculty advisor (who may or may not also be a 1L course instructor), and that relationship often is fruitful from both a professional and academic perspective.
Talented 2L and 3L students provide academic support and mentoring to new students through the Structured Study Group (see below) and Legal Writing programs.
Where needed, the Assistant Dean of Students Office also can be a resource for students struggling with the transition to law school, or facing other barriers during their academic career. Dean Keyes (Assistant Dean of Students) and Dr. Noonan (Assistant Director of Student Services) may meet one-to-one with students to help identify and address learning challenges. The University’s Disability Resource Center also provides instructional supports and recommends appropriate accommodations for law students with disabilities. The University’s Student Counseling Services Office assists students in a variety of areas including personal counseling, learning and academic skills, and career concerns.
Students who struggle with English language grammar and composition (whether native or non-native English speakers) may benefit from additional support within the Law School and University, such as:
- Structured Writing Group (SWG): This optional group is open to all 1Ls through the Legal Writing program and is designed to assist them with their legal writing work. It focuses on the kinds of things that make legal writing different from the academic, creative or informal writing that most students have done before law school. See your Legal Writing instructors for more information.
- University of Minnesota Center for Writing: Student Writing Support (SWS) offers free writing instruction for all University of Minnesota students—graduate and undergraduate—at all stages of the writing process. In addition, SWS offers a number of web-based resources on topics such as avoiding plagiarism, documenting sources, and planning and completing a writing project.
- Core Grammar for Lawyers (CGL): The Law School has CGL licenses available at a reduced cost to law students who are interested in improving or perfecting their English grammar skills. CGL consists of a pre-test, lessons and exercises, and a post-test. To participate, contact the Legal Writing program at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For students in the LL.M. program for whom English is not a native language, an instructor specializing in legal writing and ESL (English as a Second Language) provides International Student Writing Support (see below), as well as referrals to other appropriate resources within the University and beyond.
Structured Study Groups
The Structured Study Group (SSG) Program helps students in first-year classes assess and enhance their understanding of key subject areas, including Contracts, Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, Criminal Law, and Property.
Using varied teaching techniques for a range of learning styles, successful upper-division Supplemental Instructors (or SIs) hold bi-weekly sessions where students practice applying substantive law to new sets of facts, or map key cases and concepts using flow-charts or diagrams. Students also learn skills applicable to other courses, including effective study techniques, outlining, time management, and exam preparation and writing.
SSG sessions are purely voluntary, but highly recommended to assist in the adjustment to law school academic work. In the alternating weeks, SIs hold office hours to assist students one-on-one or in small groups.
International Student Writing Support Program
The International Student Writing Support (ISWS) Program provides one-on-one assistance to students in the Law School for whom English is not a native language. This program is intended to support students enrolled in the LL.M. program. Support is available for LL.M. students to discuss their writing assignments and written work, and in the following areas:
- Structuring and organizing ideas
- Using accurate English grammar and word choice
- Writing clearly and concisely
- Applying proofreading strategies
- Understanding the essential elements of American legal writing
LL.M. students with questions about this program should contact Karen A. Lundquist, Assistant Professor of ESL and Legal Skills, at email@example.com.
Students for whom English is a non-native language may also be interested in additional resources both at the University and online, such as:
- Student Writing Support through the Center for Writing: ESL specialists there can assist with grammar and usage, but not substantive material.
- ESL Coursework through the College of Continuing Education: credit-based and non-credit courses for undergraduate and graduate students.
- Many online sources for students wishing to improve English language skills. Particularly recommended is Purdue’s OWL (Online Writing Lab) website. The site includes exercise pages for practice, as well as specific resources for non-native English users.