We surveyed 52 syllabi for 1L (first-year law school) legal research and writing (LRW) courses across the country. Here are our findings:
- Most courses assigned an internal memo to analyze a question of law for a supervisor on your “side” (77% office memo, 13% email memo).
- About a third of courses (33%) assigned a client communication (such as a letter or email), summarizing findings and explaining those findings to a layperson who is on your “side.”
- A about a quarter of the courses examined assigned appellate work, 23% for appellate brief and oral argument, both of which are advocacy genres for appellate judges.
- Although 27% of courses assigned a motion memo/trial brief (advocacy genres for trial judges), only 12% of courses assigned pleadings (such as complaints and/or answers) which initiate trials and create the exigence for trial briefs. Furthermore, only 8% assigned the trial most document itself.
- Other assignments appeared in three or fewer syllabi, such as a settlement letter, a client intake memo, a court opinion, a law school exam, and others.
Survey of First-Year Legal Research and Writing Textbooks
We surveyed 32 textbooks for 1L (first-year law school) legal research and writing (LRW) courses published by all of the major textbook publishers.
- The vast majority of textbooks cover an internal memo to analyze a question of law for a supervisor on your “side” (Office Memo, 88%). Other genres of this type are also covered, but at lower rates (Email Memo, 31%; Oral Research Report, 13%).
- The genres that receive the most coverage deal with appellate work (Appellate Brief, 88%; Oral Argument, 63%).
- Trial briefs receive coverage in 63% of textbooks; however, genres that appear earlier in the civil trial process, such as a demand letter (22%), pleadings (16%), and trial motions (16%) receive coverage at much lower rates.
- Client communications, which analyze complex legal issues but communicate these issues to laypeople, receive coverage in about half of the textbooks (Client Letter, 53%).