Writer's Block

Posted by Kelly Carranza
Kelly Carranza
Year: 3L Evening Undergrad: B.A. Latin American Studies, Oakland Un
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on Sunday, 09 March 2014
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I remember sitting in one of the prospective student open house presentations before starting law school listening to a member of the administration who tried to warn us about the amount of writing that we would do in law school.  I didn't understand how much of an understatement that was.  I've been working on the same document today for about nine hours and it hasn't grown much in length at all.  So, it seemed like a good time to take a break and let you know what "you will be writing a lot" really means.

In your first year of law school, much of what you'll do is write.  You'll brief every case in your own words because you will want to be ahead of the rest of the class.  You'll take ALTA which is the required legal writing class and you'll write a complaint, a memo, a brief, and possibly a contract.  You'll type outlines and notes. Oh, and you'll write as fast as you can during at least three exams.  At the end of first year, even those who thought they liked to write may not be so fond of it anymore.  Why?  It's probably not because you are burned out or lazy, but because legal writing is so different from what most people are used to.  

Legal writing is dull (helpful hint: strive to make it compelling and interesting - you'll score big points).  It is concise, direct, sometimes repetitive because legal readers don't want to connect the dots themselves, and an incredible pain thanks to the requirement of a citation at the end of nearly every sentence.  It is often frustrating because you will learn that every word you choose to use is critical.  Welcome to law school!

As a 2L and a 3L it's not much better, but it is a little less painful.  You'll probably take an advanced writing course where you'll write an appellate brief.  Your upper level courses will have writing assignments that will expose you to all sorts of legal documents that lawyers draft. And, if you join moot court and/or law review - guess what? More writing. 

It is inevitable that there will be times where the words just can't seem to make their way to paper.  Rather than get frustrated and turn in something that you aren't necessarily proud of; step away. You cannot write a well written legal document in one night. You can't even do it in two nights.  Accept that, and accept the road blocks.  The professors that teach the writing courses will tell you this and you need to plan for it.  

Here's the good news:  UDM Law has a strong focus on writing.  Legal writing creeps up on students continuously during your time in law school at UDM.  In the long run, this is a blessing in disguise because it is a critical skill to master as a future lawyer. 

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About the author

Kelly Carranza

Year: 3L Evening
Undergrad: B.A. Latin American Studies, Oakland University
Hometown: Detroit, MI
Fun Fact: Member of the very first world synchronized skating team and was a member
of Team USA for 5 years - today I also coach synchronized ice skating.
Contact: carrankm@udmercy.edu