Welcome to the Columbia Law School Writing Center. Writing is central to both legal practice and legal education. The Writing Center’s mission is to help students understand what it means to “write like a lawyer” and then become the strongest legal writers possible. Through individual meetings, small workshops, and written reference materials, the center strives to provide Columbia Law School students with tailored advice that takes into account the time and scheduling constraints unique to law school.
The Writing Center is staffed by trained upper-year students who serve as Writing Center Fellows. Fellows work directly with students in a variety of ways. Through one-on-one conferences, Writing Center Fellows answer questions about the writing process, provide feedback on specific pieces of legal writing, and teach students to be their own best editors. Writing Center Fellows also develop an online library of resources that explain some of the most important aspects of legal writing and editing. Finally, Writing Center Fellows lead workshops that address a range of legal writing topics.
For the 2020–21 academic year, individual appointments at the Writing Center are open only to first-year and LL.M. students for assistance with their mandatory legal writing course: the Legal Practice Workshop for J.D. students, and Legal Research and Writing for LL.M. students. Fellows are available to work with students on drafting the memos, letters, and briefs assigned in their LPW or LRW classes, as well as on converting those assignments into useful writing samples. In addition to individual appointments, the Writing Center holds workshops throughout the year, which are open to all Columbia Law School students.
During the Spring 2021 semester, all appointments will be conducted virtually via Zoom.
You will need to register and make an account on our system. Once you are logged in you will have access to the Writing Fellows availability. We ask that all appointments are booked at least 48 hours in advance. You must attach your document in order to create a valid appointment. During the Fall 2020 semester, all appointments will be conducted virtually via Zoom.
As a reminder, individual appointments are only available for assistance with the Law School's mandatory legal writing courses: the Legal Practice Workshop for J.D. students, and Legal Research and Writing for LL.M. students.
For a brief introduction and instructions on how to use the system please read WCOnline Training for Students
The Writing Center Fellows will host a series of presentations to help you strengthen your legal writing in areas such as CREAC, Bluebooking, and more. This is a great opportunity to learn more about these topics and ask your Writing Center Fellows questions you may have.
Learning to Love the Bluebook (Everything you need to know about Bluebooking)
CREAC: Structuring Legal Arguments (The talk starts at the 11:27 mark)
Writing in Plain English (The talk starts at the 7:21 mark)
Writing Samples and Email Etiquette (The talk starts at the 8:48 mark)
How to Discuss Cases Effectively (The talk starts at the 14:07 mark)
These useful handouts were prepared by Writing Center Fellows and address a broad range of issues related to legal writing.
- Bluebook Primer
- Presentation on Creating a Table of Contents (TOC) and Table of Authorities (TOA)
- Effective Punctuation Handout
- Commonly Misused Words and Phrases Handout
- Proofreading Checklist
- Topic Sentences and Transitions Handout
- Table of Contents and Table of Authorities
- Organizing a Legal Discussion
- Plain English Handout
The Columbia Law School Writing Center is located in Room 612 of Jerome L. Greene Hall. During the Fall 2020 semester, all appointments will be conducted virtually via Zoom. To send a general question to the center, please email us at [email protected]. Please also feel free to email Ilene Strauss, director of Legal Writing Programs, or the student director of the Columbia Law School Writing Center with any questions, concerns, or suggestions.
1. Who can use the Columbia Law School Writing Center?
For the 2020–21 academic year, individual meetings at the Writing Center are open only to first-year and LL.M. students in connection with work in their required legal writing classes. Students can come to the center to discuss a specific piece of written work or a more general legal writing concept.
Students outside of these categories can consult with a Fellow about a piece of writing based upon a written referral from a professor.
2. Where is the Writing Center located?
The center is located on the 6th floor of Jerome L. Greene Hall in Room 612. During the Fall 2020 semester, all appointments will be conducted virtually via Zoom.
3. When is the center open, and how do I schedule an appointment?
Please see the Make an Appointmment section below for more information.
4. With whom will I meet at the Writing Center?
The Writing Center is staffed by upper-year Writing Center Fellows. All of the fellows have demonstrated outstanding writing ability, as well as a desire to help students understand the value of strong legal writing. You can sign up to see a specific fellow or come to the center’s drop-in hours.
5. What should I do to prepare for an appointment at the Writing Center?
If you are coming to the center to discuss a specific piece of writing, please email the piece to the center at least 48 hours before your appointment. Your email should note the date and time of your scheduled appointment.
You are also welcome to make an appointment to discuss an area of legal writing more generally. In this situation, please make sure that you explain your area of interest in the "notes" section of your sign-up form.
6. What kind of feedback will I receive from a Writing Center Fellow?
Fellows will not line edit or rewrite your work for you. They are most likely not versed in the substantive area of law dealt with in your paper. Rather, fellows review your work for common problems or issues related to organization, argument structure, grammar, and style. They then work to help you understand these issues so that you can become a stronger editor of your own work.