Structuring the First Few Weeks of a 1L J.D. Legal Research, Writing, and Analysis course; From a Tabula Rasa to ... I have had the opportunity to experience five first year (1L) Juris Doctorate (J.D.) programs in Legal Research, Writing, and Analysis at five law schools – three in the United States and two in Canada. I have taught at four of the aforementioned schools and have attended one of them as a student. While 1L programs across the United States are often similar, whereby students have a first year required course in conducting basic legal research, analysis, and objective legal writing in the fall and a persuasive brief and oral argument in the spring, I have come across a program that is rather unique (or at least new to me) at the Ave Maria School of Law. This program has lead me to rethink the question of what should be the best way to structure the first few weeks of a 1L course in Legal Research, Writing, and Analysis (LRWA). The first few weeks of an LRWA course are often very intense for students. Student context for legal studies and the law comes from television shows, horror stories from colleagues, and the internet, and their backgrounds in the law often vary tremendously. Combined with the shock of law school culture (including volumes of reading) and often a new environment, LRWA courses run the risk of blending into the gray that many remember as the first few weeks of law school. For this presentation, I would like to discuss the best way that we can structure the first few weeks of an LRWA course to ensure that we create a solid foundation for students to learn the law and legal skills. Moreover, I intend to discuss ways that we can make a legal skills course stand out in the first few weeks, so that students focus on building the skills they will use in other courses and in practice. My presentation will focus on the importance of providing context and showing students how to read, understand, and analyze the law in those first few weeks before applying the law in a memorandum.
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