Wednesday, November 4, 2009

1L memo is a "write" of passage

We're rounding third base and heading for home in one of our core first-year classes: Basic Legal Skills. There is perhaps no other course that elicits the groans and complaints of what we call BLS. I imagine that many students would prefer to omit the "L" completely, but the class has taught me some very important lessons. Chief among them, at least for me, is that no matter how much writing I have done in the past, the process of legal writing must be learned from the ground up. Nothing in my journalism career showed me how to write in a CREAC format, for example. And in many ways, I have been forced to unlearn many of the doctrines of professional journalism. A few of my new rules: don't (I mean do not) use contractions; do repeat the same word over and over again so as not to vary the meaning of your message; and don't forget to write a conclusion over and over and over again (see CREAC link above).

Some of these principles are maddening to follow, but there is a reason for the madness. We're learning how to write like lawyers, and the technical details are no small matter. Anyway, our last BLS class for the fall finished at 2 p.m. today. Our second and final memo of the semester is due on Monday, and for many of us it's a life consuming project. But in a few more days we'll be finished, and another 1L rite of passage will be under our belts. And then, we will only have four more final exams to go before the entire first semester is over. Did I just say four more finals? Gotta go study.


  1. My wife, Nicole Maddox, is a 1L with you at Brandeis. I just happened across your tweet while creating a new Twitter list. Nice idea for a blog. I'm sending Nicole the link now. Good luck on your upcoming finals!