Lawyers are writers. Whether crafting briefs, drafting agreements or statutes, or simply sending emails, lawyers are routinely called upon to convey complex information clearly, powerfully, and in writing. The Law School curriculum recognizes the centrality of written communication to the practice of law. Starting in their first year, students learn not only how to think about legal problems, but also how to research and write about those problems in a range of practical settings. In their upper years, students continue to write, working alongside the Law School faculty to engage deeply with legal concepts in both practice-oriented and academic contexts.
Legal Practice Workshop (“LPW”) is a required, full-year course that introduces students to the research, writing, and analytical skills critical to legal practice. Through a range of simulation exercises, students learn how to digest and analyze a legal problem and, ultimately, present that analysis in writing to different audiences. In the fall, students focus on predictive writing, learning to research and objectively analyze legal issues and discuss them through interoffice memoranda and written communications with clients. Through these simulations, students are also trained in practice-based skills that reach well beyond writing, including client interviewing and advising and the fundamentals of negotiation.
In the spring, students shift their focus to persuasive writing, with an emphasis on appellate advocacy. Working in pairs, students research, write, and orally argue appellate briefs through the Law School’s Moot Court program or one of the alternative intermural competitions in which our students compete.
LPW is taught in small, highly interactive sections led by practitioners drawn from a range of practice areas. Throughout the course, students receive continuous, individualized feedback from lawyers who are close to practice and eager to welcome students to the profession.
During their second and third years at the Law School, all students are required to complete at least two significant pieces of legal writing. Students satisfy these requirements through projects that address a myriad of legal questions in both practical and academic contexts. Through faculty-led seminars; participation in one of the Law School’s fourteen journals; and clinics, externships and other experiential courses, students hone their writing skills in areas about which they are passionate. The upper-year requirements emphasize the iterative nature of writing and the value of receiving, and responding to, feedback.
LL.M. students are required to enroll in LL.M. Research and Writing, a one-semester class that introduces written legal analysis in the common law system. Beyond this, all LL.M. candidates must complete the LL.M. Writing Project, a research paper that encompasses original legal research on a topic of a student’s choosing. Through the Writing Project, students have an opportunity to work side by side with Law School faculty to explore novel legal issues related to a student’s interests.
The Columbia Law School Writing Center is designed to supplement the Law School’s formal writing curriculum. For more information, including legal writing resources and how to make an appointment, please visit the Writing Center page.