Strategies and Techniques for Teaching Legal Writing
So you want to be a legal writing teacher?
Legal research and writing are fundamental to the practice of law. They’re also highly specialized skills that can challenge even the most adept law students. Certainly, professionals who can effectively teach legal research and writing will always be in demand at law schools across the country.
If you’ve mastered legal research and writing, we’ve identified 3 ways you can get started.
1. The “Traditional” Route
To learn more about how someone might become a legal writing teacher, I asked the Legal Writing Pro himself, Ross Guberman. Here’s what he had to say:
“Process-wise, most law schools are pretty eager to find adjunct professors to teach the first year writing class. That class is much harder to teach than a lot of people think it’s going to be, but that would be the formal way to get started.”
Ross also pointed out the downsides to the traditional legal writing professor path. As Professor Mary Dunnewold wrote, the cons include heavy workloads and lower pay than colleagues who teach doctrinal classes.
If you want to teach legal writing basics, there are opportunities. Look at this seminal piece on the legal writing prof path by Jan Levine and contact your local law school about adjunct opportunities.
2. Legal writing basics: Start with CLEs
For a less traditional route to legal research and writing instruction, Ross suggests you look to your local CLE provider. There are lots of bar associations and other organizations clamoring for good speakers to do CLEs.
CLE sponsors range from state bars to law schools to private companies. Reach out to those providers and pitch an idea for a CLE session. Rather than simply express interest in teaching legal research and writing, offer up a few possible titles of CLE sessions. You’ll make the decision easier for the provider if you offer specifics.
If you’re really ambitious, start your own CLE conference. Although hosting a live event is challenging, the work is rewarding. You might host your own event by partnering with a law school and applying for CLE credit in your state. I recently spoke with Ruth Ann Robbins, professor of legal writing at Rutgers, about her involvement in the Applied Legal Storytelling Conference. Even with such a niche legal research and writing topic, the event draws a steady flow of audience and interest.
Interested in CLEs? Check out Casetext’s new Continuing Legal Education webinar program. Earn CLE credit while developing the skills needed to work as a speaker or teacher in legal research and writing. And that’s not all — Casetext’s CLE webinars cover a range of legal specialization. Sign up at our CLE webinar schedule today.
3. An Empirical Emphasis: Plan to Teach Well
Whether you’re considering an academic or less formal approach to legal research and writing teaching, Ross Guberman strongly suggests that you do it well.
“The biggest problem is that people get up and just run their mouths, spewing platitudes about legal writing that everyone’s already heard. They often just give their own personal preferences.
“Whether you’re talking about formal workshops or informal mentoring, the secret is to try to be very empirical. Ground your advice in specific examples from specific types of lawyers or judges who are really successful. Stay away from anything that’s just your own view or your own take.”
So, whether you obsess over your Bluebook or are a missionary for good storytelling, make sure you deliver the goods. The legal writing world needs you to take your teaching seriously.
Speaking of your Bluebook, Look to Legal Writing Resources
Teaching legal research and writing is one path a legal writing pro can take. Try also lending your legal research and writing to legal writing resources, including your preferred law teaching blog and best law professor blogs.
Legal research giants LexisNexis and Westlaw, as well as online providers like Casetext, also regularly publish content online and may need help from legal research and writing experts.
In addition to providing reliable income, writing for legal writing resources keeps your skills sharp and provides you with added visibility.
Want to Learn More about Writing Well?
To hear the entire interview with Ross, check out the video below…
Take a look at other articles in this series on legal research and writing. We’re happy to support the development of good writing habits and would love a chance to show how Casetext’s AI-enabled research tools can help you become a legal writing pro.