In this year-long course, students focus on a most basic skill: using language with precision, clarity, and persuasiveness. They also learn the fundamentals of traditional and computerized legal research and obtain extensive practice in legal writing with regular feedback.
Law schools understand that strong skills in analysis, writing, and research are essential to your future success as a lawyer. But at the University at Buffalo School of Law, you will receive much more instruction in those critical skills than at most law schools.
Under the Law School's Legal Analysis, Writing and Research (LAWR) program, all students complete a 10-credit, three-semester LAWR curriculum, with two semesters in their first year and a third semester during their second year.
We developed the LAWR program after extensive focus group meetings with judges and practitioners and interviews with experts in legal writing. Through that process, we identified the reasoning, writing, and research skills that legal employers expect from recent graduates. And over the course of three semesters, we give students repeated opportunities to practice and refine those skills.
All three semesters are taught by full-time LAWR faculty. Throughout the LAWR program, students learn legal analysis and writing through immersion in the practice of writing, and through cycles of trial and error, feedback, and reflection. Because the courses are taught in small sections with an excellent instructor-to-student ratio, students are inspired to think critically and approach legal questions in a newly-disciplined way.
The first semester (4 credits) is focused on foundational skills, including close and critical reading; case briefing, analysis and synthesis; the organization and structure of legal rules and legal analysis; the application of law to fact; and a step-by-step approach to drafting a written analysis.
Throughout the semester, students learn how to identify legal issues in a given set of facts and predict how a court would likely resolve those issues. Students also learn legal citation and work extensively on writing skills, ranging from plain English, grammar, and punctuation to effective legal style and usage. Prior to the final assignment (a full office memorandum), students will first complete numerous shorter assignments focused on developing specific skills.
Each professor provides extensive individual feedback through comments on assignments and a series of individual and small group conferences with students. This systematic and hands-on approach helps ensure that by the end of the semester, students can communicate their analysis in a clear, concise, and well-organized manner.
Research Instruction. Beginning in the first semester and continuing throughout the year, research and writing instructors work closely with reference librarians to introduce students to both print and electronic resources. This close collaboration ensures the students acquire research skills in a graduated, systematic manner closely linked to the legal analysis and writing components of the course.
The second semester builds on this foundation and progresses to more advanced skills, including additional analytical skills, persuasive writing skills, and independent research.
During the second semester (3 credits), students will work on progressively more complex assignments, which may include open research memoranda and client letters. The capstone of the second semester is a motion for summary judgment, with oral argument on the motion before a panel comprised of local practitioners and judges.
The Third Semester builds on the foundation established in LAWR I and II, and acts as the capstone of the LAWR program. The course is writing-intensive, with students drafting up to twelve separate practice-related assignments during the semester. Particular attention is paid to clear English, sound analysis, careful revision, and flawless, professional work product. Some class time is spent in lecture; other time in a collaborative or workshop environment. All assignments stress, and arise from, the actual documents attorneys draft in practice. This course helps prepare students for the demands and rigor of writing as a lawyer, especially as they begin practice.