Welcome to the Columbia Law School Writing Center!
The Law School Writing Center is available to all law students. During the academic year, students may attend workshops and/or make appointments for one-on-one consultations. Consultations can be used to review specific pieces of legal writing (up to 10, double-spaced pages) or to discuss general legal writing strategies. While the priority is academic writing, students may also make appointments to review professional legal writing samples as time allows. The goal of the Writing Center is to help students become better legal writers and the best possible editors of their own work.
The Writing Center team consists of staff writing specialists, who are attorneys, and trained upper-year law students who serve as writing fellows. Writing specialists are available to meet with LL.M. and upper-year law students, and conduct an LL.M./Upper-Year Workshop Series throughout the academic year. Writing fellows are available to meet with 1Ls in Legal Practice Workshop, and hold 1L-focused workshops through the 1L Lunch Series.
For Fall 2022, students may schedule a consultation as follows. Please make an appointment at least 48 hours in advance.
- LL.M. and upper-year students may make an appointment with one of the writing specialists here.
- 1Ls may make an appointment with one of the writing fellows here.
Please see the Events dropdown below for the Fall 2022 workshop schedule.
- Writing Center staff are not available to edit or proofread student work. We do not provide substantive feedback, nor review any piece of legal writing in the absence of a consultation appointment.
- Students may not make an appointment to discuss the following pieces of legal writing: take-home or practice examinations from a current class, journal notes, or a legal writing sample that will also be used for journal applications.
- Students may make confidential appointments to work on effective legal writing strategies and improve their overall skills. However, if a student would like to discuss a writing assignment for a current, graded class, the student must have their instructor’s permission to do so. This includes papers for supervised research, supervised experiential study, the LL.M. Writing Project, or any other piece of upper-year writing that will ultimately be submitted for a grade.
- Students do not need instructor permission to make an appointment regarding writing for 1L Legal Practice Workshop or LL.M. Legal Research and Writing.
- Students do not need instructor permission to discuss specific pieces of legal writing that are not associated with a current, graded class. For example, students are welcome to bring in written work from a prior semester to use as a starting point for discussion.
- Students must obtain permission from their employer and redact any confidential information before sharing a legal writing sample from a prior job, internship, externship, or clinic. Please note that we are not available to review resumes or cover letters.
Please see below information for the 1L Lunch Series and the LL.M./Upper-Year Workshop Series.
Fall 2022 1L Lunch Series
Writing fellows host a series of workshops for 1Ls throughout the fall semester. Upcoming workshops:
Thursday, October 20th, at 12:10, location TBD
In this presentation, Writing Center Fellows will review how and why to use CREAC to structure logical and persuasive legal arguments.
Writing in Plain English
Thursday, November 3rd, at 12:10, location TBD
This talk will be a practical discussion of how to write legal arguments in plain English. Legal writing has a bad reputation as overly technical, verbose, and confusing. That is not the proper approach to legal writing. Writing in plain English and legal writing have the same goal: communicating complex ideas in a digestible and manageable form. As Justice Clarence Thomas once said, "the genius is not to write a 5 cent idea in a ten dollar sentence. It's to put a ten dollar idea in a 5 cent sentence." In this presentation, Writing Center Fellows will review specific tips that will help you do just that.
Fall 2022 LL.M./Upper-Year Workshop Series
Writing specialists host a series of workshops for LL.M. and upper-year law students throughout the fall semester. Each workshop will be held in-person, at three separate times.
Registration required. These are small group workshops and space is limited. Please choose the time that works best for you; please do not sign up for the same workshop more than once.
Writing for Your Audience
Practice writing a fact pattern for different audiences, including supervising attorneys, courts, and the general public. Open to LL.M.s, 2Ls, and 3Ls. Limit 20 people.
- Thursday, September 29 from 2:00pm - 3:00pm. Register here.
- Monday, October 3 from 5:00pm - 6:00pm. Register here.
- Tuesday, October 4 from 12:10pm - 1:10pm. Register here.
Review how to synthesize legal rules, and practice synthesizing rules from multiple sources. Open to LL.M.s, 2Ls, and 3Ls. Limit 20 people.
- Wednesday, October 12 from 12:10pm - 1:10pm. Register here.
- Thursday, October 13 from 2:00pm - 3:00pm. Register here.
- Thursday, October 13 from 5:00pm - 6:00pm. Register here.
Avoiding Unintentional Plagiarism
Review what must be cited in legal writing, and practice identifying citation failures that could result in unintentional plagiarism. Open to LL.M.s, 2Ls, and 3Ls. Limit 20 people.
Registration information will be posted in early October.
- Monday, October 24 from 2:00pm - 3:00pm.
- Tuesday, October 25 from 5:00pm - 6:00pm.
- Wednesday, October 26 from 12:10pm - 1:10pm.
Mastering the Bluebook
Crack open a Bluebook and practice your way to mastery. Open to LL.M.s, 2Ls, and 3Ls. Limit 20 people.
Registration information will be posted in late October.
- Monday, November 14 from 2:00pm - 3:00pm.
- Tuesday, November 15 from 5:00pm - 6:00pm.
- Thursday, November 17 from 12:10pm - 1:10pm.
Please see the Law School Writing Center resource page for handouts, presentations, and workshop recordings covering a broad range of legal writing issues.
Misti Duvall is a writing specialist at the Law School Writing Center, where she provides one-on-one and small group instruction to help students develop their legal writing skills. She also teaches First-Year Legal Writing at Fordham Law School. Misti has experience in domestic and international law and policy, and spent 10 years practicing environmental law with non-profit organizations in New York, Washington, DC, and Southeast Asia. She then shifted her focus from legal practice to writing and teaching, including several years working with prospective law students.
Misti is a graduate of Columbia Law School, and was an Articles Editor for the Columbia Journal of Environmental Law and Teaching Assistant in the Environmental Law Clinic. She also holds an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from City College of New York and a B.A. from the University of Tennessee.
Contact: [email protected]
Jessica Valdes Jimenez
Jessica Valdes Jimenez teaches Legal Practice Workshop and is a writing specialist at the Law School Writing Center. As a writing specialist, she meets with students individually and in small groups to advise on effective legal writing skills. She has experience in employment-related counseling and training, internal investigations, and litigation. She has represented public and private companies, governmental organizations, and individuals in an array of litigation matters. She also has experience in government practice having served as a Trial Attorney at the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and clerked for the Honorable Chris M. McAliley in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida.
Jessica graduated from Columbia Law School as a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar, where she was a student editor of Columbia’s First-Year Moot Court Program, a Public Service Fellow, and member of the Columbia Human Rights Law Review. She received her undergraduate degree from The George Washington University.
Contact: [email protected]
The writing fellows consist of 15 upper-year law students who are available to meet with 1Ls in Legal Practice Workshop. All fellows have demonstrated outstanding writing ability, as well as a desire to help students understand the value of strong legal writing. Student Co-Directors oversee the work of the writing fellows.
For the 2022-2023 academic year, the Student Co-Directors are Isabella Gerrard and Jerelyn Luther.
To send a general question to the center, please email us at [email protected].
1. Who can use the Columbia Law School Writing Center?
Any current law student.
2. When is the center open, and how do I schedule an appointment?
Please see the Make an Appointment section below for more information.
3. With whom will I meet?
The Law School Writing Center is staffed by writing specialists, who are attorneys, and upper-year student writing fellows. LL.M. and upper-year J.D. students will meet with one of the writing specialists, and 1Ls in Legal Practice Workshop will meet with one of the writing fellows.
4. What should I do to prepare for an appointment?
If you are coming to the center to discuss a specific piece of writing, please share the piece as directed at least 48 hours prior to your appointment.
You are also welcome to make an appointment to discuss an area of legal writing more generally. In this situation, please make sure to explain your area of interest in the "notes" section of your sign-up form.
5. What kind of feedback will I receive?
Writing Center staff will not line edit or rewrite your work for you. We will not provide feedback on substantive legal issues, nor review without consultation. Rather, we will review your work for common problems or issues related to organization, argument structure, grammar, and style. We will then work with you to help you understand these issues so that you can become a stronger editor of your own work.