Writing and Advocacy in Civil Litigation

Professor Julie Goldscheid

The first-year, second-semester lawyering seminar focuses on teaching writing as a central part of legal advocacy. Professor Julie Goldscheid's linked lawyering seminar and civil procedure classes use a semester-long simulation as well as shorter written practice exercises to help students develop their advocacy-oriented writing skills. During the spring 2008 semester, students drafted dispositive motions in a simulated case involving allegations of gender-based harassment in a high school social studies class. Half the class represented the student and half represented the school in a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a legal claim. Students were then given additional information positing that the court denied the motion to dismiss. They were asked to assume that the case proceeded to discovery, were given salient facts revealed through discovery, were told that the trial court granted a motion for summary judgment filed by the defendant, and were given a copy of a simulated trial court decision. Students then switched the party they were representing, conducted research on one of the points on appeal, and wrote a brief on appeal of the summary judgment decision. Students presented oral argument in support of their position, and received extensive feedback on their briefs, after which they revised their briefs. The experience of drafting arguments on both sides of a legal issue, as well as the opportunity to revise a written brief after argument, sharpened students' written advocacy. Students also wrote informal memos reflecting on the ways the written and oral advocacy exercises were mutually reinforcing and helped them develop their understanding of the role of the lawyer as advocate in civil litigation.