August 17, 2016
Introduction to Legal Writing Course Gives Students a Glimpse into the Rigors of Law School
Anyone who has been in law school will tell you that one of the first things they had to learn is how to write like a lawyer. Even students who are excellent writers when they enter law school will find that legal writing presents a unique challenge that requires a specific approach. For students who want to get a sense of what this new way of communicating entails, Southwestern offers a Summer Introduction to Legal Writing course.
A stepping stone for incoming first-year law students, this class provides a foundation that assists them with various levels of writing experience to pave the way for becoming proficient legal writers. It also introduces students to the core skills that are necessary for effective legal research and the opportunity to practice these skills before regular classes begin.
Professor Alexandra D’Italia designs and teaches this two-week, non-credit course, which is based on Southwestern’s innovative Legal Analysis, Writing, and Skills Program (LAWS).
“When crafting this course, I thought about everything I wished I’d known before beginning my first year of law school,” Professor D’Italia said, “and one thing stood out: I wish I’d known to be fearless – to risk uttering the wrong reasoning in front of a large class, or getting an analysis wrong – and then having the courage to reflect and correct as I went along. So while I expose students to legal reasoning and writing, I hope I give them the courage to reach for their own brass ring.”
For entering student Joseph Mendoza, the experience was invaluable. “The course truly helped me gain a better perspective of my purpose and direction as a career-oriented student,” he said. “I greatly appreciated Professor D’Italia’s straightforward teaching style, which did not involve much hand-holding or sugar-coating, yet was warm and came from a place of genuine care for our individual and professional development.”
The Summer Introduction to Legal Writing Course is designed for pre-law students who are recent college graduates or currently enrolled undergraduates, as well as for professionals working in law related fields. Classes are limited to 20 students, who receive 30 hours of instruction, in-class writing practice including an introduction to legal memorandum writing techniques, and extensive individualized evaluation of their compositions.
“I am so thankful and happy I decided to enroll in the course,” first-year student Rena Kosnett said, “Professor D’Italia is an incredible instructor. She is clearly so intelligent and also has a sense of humor, and she deeply cares about her students – a combination that makes the learning process very enjoyable.”
Several guest speakers visit the class as well. Members of Southwestern’s Career Services and Academic Success offices give students advice on everything from time management to taking advantage of the guidance and services available beyond the classroom. Upper division students involved in the law school’s Moot Court, Trial Advocacy and Negotiation honors programs introduce participants to the many ways they will be able to use their new legal writing skills in the classroom and the courtroom.
Mendoza added, “Thanks to the writing course, I arrived to campus on the first day with a few friends and a familiarity with the facilities, which I would not have had otherwise. Apart from that, the course has bestowed upon me a higher level of confidence in my educational endeavor than I had before.”