How to Make the Most of Meeting with your Legal Writing Professor — Written by a Legal Writing Professor!
How to Make the Most of Meeting with your Legal Writing Professor: During your first year of law school, you will find that in many ways, time is not your friend. It’s not even a ‘friendly acquaintance’! So, what this means for you is that you want to make the most out of your time, whether you are working on assignments or, as you will be doing during both your first and second semesters, meeting with your LRW professor in one-on-one conferences. Here are some tips for meeting with your legal writing professor.
How to Make the Most of Meeting with your Legal Writing Professor — Tips from a Legal Writing Professor
1. Make sure to meet often enough.
Typically, you will have two conferences during your first semester of legal writing, and one conference during your second semester. Your LRW professor holds these conferences so that you can ask questions about the ‘first draft’ of your major assignments (a non-research and research legal memorandum during first semester, and a trial brief or an appellate brief during your second semester). After you turn in your first draft of each major assignment, your legal writing professor will provide you with detailed written feedback. You will then have the opportunity to meet with your professor.
2. Understand their comments and use them as feedback.
Now, here is where I want to share some great advice with you. This may sound obvious, but actually read each and every comment that your professor makes on your draft. Next, for each comment that you do not understand, make a note to yourself. You also want to take your time and write out any and every question that you may have about the assignment—whether substantive or technical—for your professor. Many times, students will just ask another buddy in class. It is better to be on the safe side, and ask your professor all of your questions.
3. Prepare for your meeting!
Here is a common mistake students make: they do not prepare for conferences! Thus, when I meet with some students they will sheepishly admit that they have not read any of my feedback. (This is really a bummer for the students—they ultimately feel a lot of pressure and the assignment due date quickly approaches and they still have yet to even read my feedback and make the needed changes). At the other end of the spectrum, some students come to conference and say that they have read all of my feedback, but they have no questions at all. (Do not believe them. There are always questions, at least a few, which you will have regarding each assignment). In each of these scenarios, the respective students have lost precious time, and the great opportunity to feel more comfortable with the given assignment.
4. Make sure you understand what your professor tells you.
Here is another tip which may sound obvious. When you meet with your professor, and she/he explains something to you, avoid pretending that you understand. I know, this sounds downright silly—right? But can I tell you how many students I have had who pretend that they understand because they do not want to appear like they ‘just don’t get it’. (I discover that they do not understand because following the meeting/conference, the student will send me a humble, late night email asking me to please explain the particular point again).
Again, the main take-away here and overall is–save yourself time, and avoid some anxiety. If you do not understand a given point—say so! It is okay. You are a first year student, and you are learning. And, your legal writing professor knows this and genuinely wants to make sure that you feel comfortable with the given assignment and how you are approaching it.
5. Ask them to look over a small sample of your work.
Here is another great tip as you prepare to meet with your Legal Writing professor. Ask your professor if she/he would mind looking over a paragraph or two of your draft that you have revised. If she/he agrees, you will find this to be a great help. You will get immediate feedback from your prof during your meeting, such that you can really understand what the professor is looking for in the final version of the assignment. And, you will be able to ask particular questions as your prof reviews the paragraph that you have written.
Now, with that said, an additional bit of advice. If your professor agrees to look over a paragraph or two, what you do not want to do is come to your conference with your entire assignment re-written, and ask your prof to read through the entire second draft. Keep in mind that your prof has to be fair to all of your colleagues in your class. Conferences should only be about ten to fifteen minutes long.
This post was written by Professor K. Day. Ms. K. Day teaches legal writing to first, second and third year law students at Wayne State University Law School. She teaches both basic and advanced legal writing skills. Ms. Day also served as a Visiting Assistant Professor of Legal Practice at Peking University School of Transnational Law in Shenzhen, China where she assisted in the design and implementation of the Legal Practice Program for the first western style law school in China.