Legal Writing I

Course Objectives

The purpose of this course is to teach practicing lawyers, advanced law students and other legal professionals to organize and write law office memoranda, client letters and emails. Students will explore differences in writing for common law/versus civil law trained environments, will learn the parts of a legal memorandum, will practice the basic "IRAC" technique of legal writing, will study and practice logical organization in legal writing, and will improve sentence and paragraph structure in their legal writing. The course stresses the logic of legal writing and development of legal thinking. Students will also review conventions of written legal English, including, specifically, completing exercises in topics such as punctuation, using active voice, structuring sentences, organizing paragraphs, and creating logical flow between paragraphs.

Legal Writing I is the first part of a two-part course. This course, Legal Writing Part 1, is devoted to the basics of common law, legal reasoning and analytical legal writing. But all major writing assignments are done using examples based on Russian law. The course is designed to teach the writing skills that international law firms and corporations need their lawyers to know.

The second part, Legal Writing II, taught in the next semester for those students who want to continue working on their writing, is devoted to learning legal research in the American and other common law legal systems, working more thoroughly with cases, and drafting more complex and adversarial documents. This course is perfect for lawyers who are likely to take an LL.M. degree in a common law country, arbitrate cases using foreign law, or eventually practice law in the U.S. or U.K.

Each part of the course is two units towards the LL.M. degree.

Despite much effort on our parts, we have not yet found a way to teach writing without requiring you to write! Thus, there are multiple writing assignments that you must complete to pass the class.


Legal Writing I is designed for students whose English is at the advanced level. Those whose English is not adequate should first take courses in Legal English.

Course Length

30 in-class academic hours (24 clock hours). (The professor spends approximately 6 hours reviewing and commenting in writing on the written course work of each individual student).


The book for Legal Writing is divided into three major parts: Sources of Law, Micro-Organized Writing (writing style--sentence structure & punctuation), and Macro-Organized writing (logical structure and organization of specific legal documents). The second two parts are explored in detail in Legal Writing I, while the first is touched upon to the extend of understanding the differences in logical style between common law and civil law trained legal professionals. The course will skip around in the book, so that in each class students will cover some elements of writing style and some elements of organization and logic.

The course is taught in a small group seminar, with a combination of lecture, discussion, and oral and written exercises. Students will spend considerable time discussing and criticizing actual examples of legal writing produced for clients by (and reprinted by permission of) various international law firms in Moscow.

Students will be given several short writing assignments. Approximately midway through the course, the students will be asked to research, write and perfect a hypothetical legal memorandum solving a client's problem within the closed universe of the Russian Civil Code. This memorandum is expected to be 4-8 typewritten pages, and will be revised several times based upon the professor’s comments before being completed by the end of the course.

Textbook: Legal Methods, produced for the course by Professor Marian Dent, J.D., 1988, University of California, Berkeley.

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