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Legal Writing Program

Curriculum

Photo of Greg Johnson working with a student.Students take three semesters of legal writing at VLS. In their first semester, students are taught the fundamentals of legal writing by third-year Dean’s Fellows working under the supervision of the Director and the Associate Director of the program. Students learn the ABCs of legal writing—accuracy, brevity, and clarity—through a series of exercises typical of assignments given to summer associates and new attorneys. Students are also introduced to the latest tools in legal research by the staff of research librarians in the Julien and Virginia Cornell Library.  Students enjoy a close working relationship and receive valuable mentoring from the Dean's Fellows in a supportive and collaborative classroom environment.

The professors who teach Legal Writing II in the spring of the first year select a subject matter for the class based on their experience and expertise. Current subjects include criminal law, sports law, natural resources law, constitutional law, civil rights, and environmental health law. Students select a class subject based on their interests and proceed to develop sophisticated legal writing skills in the context of compelling real-life topics. Our highly-trained professors work with every student one-on-one to provide careful and detailed critiques of the student’s writing. By the end of the first year, students are ready for any summer position that requires proficiency in legal research and writing.

The required Legal Writing Program culminates with Appellate Advocacy, a course students take in the fall of their second year. Students learn advanced legal writing and appellate advocacy skills and ultimately brief and argue real cases pending before the United States Supreme Court. Professors choose high-profile cases of national importance for this exercise, resulting in an engaging and relevant educational experience for students. As a component of the course, many students opt to travel to Washington D.C. to attend the Supreme Court oral argument of the case they themselves have briefed.