The traditional office memo still receives the most extensive coverage by far (77%), compared with the email memo (13%). Further research is needed to determine whether employers prefer new legal researchers to communicate findings via traditional office memo format or by email.
Client communications are covered in roughly 1/3 of courses, the second-most prevalent genre type, reflective of the important role young lawyers play in communicating with clients. Focusing curriculum on audience awareness, plain English style, and audience expertise will help ensure that client communication skills are strong.
Appellate advocacy and trial advocacy receive a similar degree of treatment (23% for appellate briefs vs. 27% for trial briefs). However, more common trial documents such as pleadings (complaints, answers) receive relatively little coverage (12%). Further research is needed to determine the percentage of documents written by new lawyers that are of the pleadings genre, the trial motion genre, and the appellate brief genre. This research will help determine whether legal writing programs should place greater emphasis on trial genres.
Survey of First-Year Legal Research and Writing Textbooks
Our findings show that the textbooks reflect the curriculum of the 1L courses. This is not surprising, as textbooks often drive curriculum (by influencing new professors), and curriculum similarly drives textbooks (as textbook development seeks to meet market demand), in a symbiotic fashion.
The most striking finding in this survey of textbooks is that appellate work receives the most coverage in these texts. If we want to ensure that we are teaching 1Ls the writing skills that will be most transferable to the workplace, we should determine which documents they will be writing as new lawyers on the job. Demand letters, complaints and answers (pleadings), and motions are arguably more common genres in an average lawyer’s workload than appellate briefs and appellate oral arguments. Further research should be conducted to determine just what genres new lawyers write on the job at different types of firms, which can help shape curriculum, and, in turn, LRW textbooks.