Tuesday, May 10, 2005

4 legal writing textbooks

Over the last 13 years of teaching first-year legal writing, I've used four different texts; I'll mention them here, along with a fifth I like. Please note, though, that I teach a very basic course in Legal Research and Legal Writing, once given three credits and now given two. So what I like and what I feel justified in having my students buy are two different things. (Click on the book title to see the book on Amazon.com)
  1. Writing and Analysis in the Law by Shapo, Walter, & Fajans. This is an excellent book that is comprehensive and well written. It covers memos and briefs and other legal writing projects. The authors have many years of experience. I stopped using it only because I felt it was more comprehensive than I needed for my basic course.
  2. Legal Writing: Process, Analysis, and Organization by Edwards. This is another excellent book, and the first to take an overtly process-oriented approach to teaching legal writing. Again, though, the book was too much for my basic course. For a course that has more credits, I highly recommend it.
  3. A Practical Guide to Legal Writing & Legal Method by Dernbach, Singleton, Wharton, & Rhutenberg. This is a very popular legal writing text, and although it needs to be updated (latest edition is 1994), it is still effective. It's basic, simple, clear, and practical. It is just about right for my course, and I used it for several years.
  4. The Lawyer's Craft: An Introduction to Legal Analysis, Writing, Research and Advocacy by Glaser, Lieberman, Ruescher, & Su. I've used this textbook for several years, too, and it fits my course fairly well. It covers oral reports, which I like (though other books do that, too), and it recommends multi-sentence questions presented, which no other book I know of does (get into the 21st century, please). It's also simple and clear, which I like. Plus it starts students out with a basic analytical writing exercise called the legal proof, which helps students build to a full legal analysis.
  5. Legal Reasoning and Legal Writing: Structure, Strategy, and Style by Neumann. If I had four, five, or six credits for my course, I'd probably use this book. It's thorough, detailed, thoughtful, and well written. It was used here at Texas for a few years before I arrived, and my colleagues and I used ideas and excerpts from it for several years after: the author explains things so thoroughly and insightfully. It's now out in a fifth edition that isn't on Amazon.com yet.
Do you have a favorite first-year legal writing text?

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