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Dean's Column: Lawyering Process at the Boyd School of Law

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Nevada Lawyer Magazine
“I am proud that, since the Boyd School of Law opened its doors 15 years ago, we have set a high standard on putting instruction in legal writing at the center of the law school curriculum. ”
Dean’s Column
As a dean still new to Las Vegas, I spend a good deal of time meeting lawyers from across the city and state. When I ask what they look for most when making a new hire, what I hear most often is “make sure they can write.” These practicing lawyers tell me again and again that the most important skill a new lawyer needs is the ability to write well. Of course, I agree. No matter how much we emphasize “thinking like a lawyer,” or how much we focus on helping our students refine their analytical abilities, it all comes to naught if they cannot effectively communicate their ideas in writing. I remember vividly talking to one of my colleagues about one thing or another several years ago when I saw a post-it on her computer that said in bold letters “You Are A Writer!” It was her way of constantly reminding herself that she was, as most lawyers are, essentially a professional writer, whose main work product was written legal argument and analysis. However important legal writing is, it is also notoriously difficult to teach. A legal brief or memo is a unique combination of technicality, creativity, structure and eloquence. If we need first to teach our students about the traditions of style and format – how to cite cases, state the argument, recite the facts and come to a legal conclusion – we then need to tweak those traditions and allow the human element and the real-world stakes of a case to come through. This is hard to do and hard to teach and, for years, law schools did not give it enough attention on the premise that good writing, like good teaching, somehow could not be taught. 44 Nevada Lawyer October 2013 I am proud that, since the Boyd School of Law opened its doors 15 years ago, we have set a high standard on putting instruction in legal writing at the center of the law school curriculum. Boyd’s Lawyering Process Program requires students to complete nine graded credits of legal analysis, research, writing and skills training. This expansive program of study allows students to graduate with a real comparative advantage; our alumni stand out among their peers for their writing ability. Requiring that each student devote nine credits of instruction to legal writing demonstrates to students and the community the importance we place on effective communication and our commitment to ensuring that our graduates excel. This dedication has drawn national attention and the legal writing program at Boyd is consistently recognized as one of the handful of best programs in the country. Here at Boyd, we have a group of faculty who write books and articles dedicated to teaching students how to be effective writers and effective lawyers. Boyd students have also enjoyed the opportunity to learn from visitors who are nationally respected legal writing teachers from other schools across the country. We don’t teach writing in isolation, but as part of a set of skills lawyers need to effectively communicate. These skills include oral argument and negotiation, interviewing, counseling and collaborating to solve problems; we teach these skills alongside the different kinds of writing that correspond to each of these aspects of lawyering.
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October 2013 Nevada Lawyer 45

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