Legal Writing

Goals

Because the average lawyer writes more than the average novelist, the law school devotes special attention to legal writing throughout the curriculum. The goal of Legal Writing is to teach students to write in a clear, concise and professional manner through practice.

Courses and Requirements

In the first year, students take three fundamental courses: Legal Analysis, Legal Writing, and Legal Research. By the end of the first year, students will have learned that competent research, clear organization, and thorough analysis are essential to good legal writing. They will also have drafted several objective legal memoranda analyzing complex legal problems, a persuasive brief and supporting documents arguing for summary judgment without a trial, and proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law for a bench trial. Research and writing are also integrated into several of the required first-year doctrinal courses.

Although the legal writing program has its foundation in the first year, it extends through all three years. To further develop skills taught during the first year, all second-year students enroll in Business Transactions, in which students negotiate and draft business agreements. Many elective courses also provide substantial writing experiences.

In addition, all students must fulfill the Advanced Writing Requirement (AWR) by drafting a major written piece, with the guidance and supervision of a faculty member, and presenting it orally during their second or third year. The AWR reflects the faculty's recognition that lawyers are professional writers and that law schools must devote the resources needed to help students develop their writing skills.

This obligation is implicit in the American Bar Association’s Standards for Approval of Law Schools, which require “substantial instruction” in legal writing, “including at least one writing experience in the first year and at least one additional writing experience after the first year, both of which are faculty supervised.” Students can satisfy the AWR through designated upper-division seminars, Appellate Advocacy, either law review, or an independent study.

Contact

Professor Larry Howell is the Director of the legal writing program and coaches the National Moot Court team, which has excelled in regional and national competitions. In 2019, the UM team's brief was judged best in the nation, a testament to the strength of the legal writing program. For more information, email Prof. Howell at larry.howell@umontana.edu.