Students at the University of Texas School of Law learn the fundamentals of legal writing during their first-year Legal Research and Writing class. But when these law students graduate and begin practicing law they quickly move beyond the memos and briefs they learned to write as first-year students.
For those graduates specializing in civil litigation, much of their time will be spent writing motions and other court documents, as well as communicating in writing with their clients and opposing counsel.
To help prepare students and new lawyers for these forms of writing, Law School Senior Lecturers Kamela Bridges and Wayne Schiess have written a book, Writing for Litigation, organized around the types of documents a trial lawyer writes, from an engagement letter at the beginning of a case to jury instructions at the end. Together, Bridges and Schiess have been teaching legal writing at the Law School for more than thirty years.
A former litigation partner at a major Texas law firm, Bridges said she noticed the need for such a book when she began teaching an upper-division writing class specifically about litigation writing at UT Law School several years ago.
“When I went searching for a textbook to use for the class, none hit the mark,” Bridges said. “Some touched on some of the documents I wanted to teach, but none covered all of them with much depth. So Wayne Schiess and I decided to write a book that would fulfill the need.”
The book, published earlier this year by Aspen Publishers, is designed for students and new lawyers who are writing these documents for the first time. “Since some new lawyers did not have the opportunity to take an advanced writing class addressing litigation documents while in law school, we hope the book will provide valuable guidance to those learning on the job,” Bridges said.
Bridges recalled feeling overwhelmed the first time a law firm partner walked into her office and asked her to write a motion. “I said something like, ‘Can you show me what one looks like?’ I hope lawyers who use our book will instead say, ‘Sure. When would you like that?’”
The new book covers the pleadings, discovery documents, and motions trial lawyers spend many hours drafting. It also addresses letter-writing and emails.
For each type of document, Bridges and Schiess discuss the audience and purpose of the document, typical components of the document, and strategic considerations when writing the document. The authors also provide samples of each document in the appendix. In addition, each chapter contains writing tips addressing common trouble spots in legal writing, such as avoiding sexism and using forms.
“With its exclusive focus on litigation-writing skills, Writing for Litigation is a welcome and much-needed book,” said Professor Mark Edwin Burge ’97, associate professor of law, Texas Wesleyan University School of Law. “Bridges and Schiess fill a longstanding gap in the legal academy’s professional skills literature and achieve impressive depth of coverage without sacrificing accessibility.”
About Kamela Bridges
Kamela Bridges, a lecturer at the Law School, teaches legal writing. Her courses include Legal Research and Writing, Brief Writing and Oral Advocacy, and Advanced Legal Writing: Litigation. Prior to joining the faculty in 2000, Bridges was a partner at Locke Liddell & Sapp LLP (now known as Locke Lord Bissell & Liddell). Her practice focused on civil litigation and appellate law.
About Wayne Schiess
Wayne Schiess, a senior lecturer at the School of Law, teaches legal writing, legal drafting, and plain English. He is also a frequent seminar speaker on those subjects. He has published more than a dozen articles on practical legal-writing skills, plus four books. His blog on legal writing, Legalwriting.net, was named one of the ABA Journal’s top 100 law-related blogs for 2007. Schiess graduated from Cornell Law School, practiced law for three years at the Texas firm of Baker Botts, and in 1992 joined the faculty at Texas.