Infusing a Writer's Perspective in Clinic Classes

Professors Sameer Ashar, Liz Newman and Liliana Yanez

In Spring 2008, Professors Sameer Ashar, Liz Newman, and Liliana Yanez of the Immigrant & Refugee Rights Clinic at CUNY designed a trio of innovative "Writing Rounds" classes, with input from Professor Andrea McArdle and CUNY Writing Fellow Tracy Chu. Modeled upon a semester of Case Rounds, in which clinic students presented projects for feedback, discussed problems that they confronted in a case, or chose to teach something from their work, the module of Writing Rounds classes offered an opportunity for litigation teams to share a piece of writing with everyone in the class and to receive feedback. The presenting students described the audience for the writing and the relevant legal rules and presumptions that readers should bear in mind, and asked for feedback in such areas as structure, use of authority, incorporation of facts into legal argument, and writing style. To prepare for the rationale, process, and methodology of peer feedback, clinic students drew insights from a peer writing feedback guide from Mercer University School of Law <pdf>.

This module of classes produced concrete suggestions for changes in the work of the student litigation teams and, perhaps most importantly, a higher level of consciousness for the writers about the contours and quality of their work as they presented it.