Legal Research & Writing Program

Makes an Impact on Students' Success

Legal Research & Writing Program

Steve Schultz, Mireille Butler, Hilary Reed, Nancy McGinnis, and Amy Levin

Good lawyers think and write with clarity and precision. Their arguments are logical and supported by authority, and their oral or written expression of those arguments is cogent and coherent. At Pepperdine University School of Law, the first year Legal Research and Writing program consists of a rigorous year-long course designed to equip students to strengthen their ability to research, analyze, and write. The fall semester is dedicated to objective writing: first-year students are required to complete a closed library memo (where case law and relevant statutes are provided by the instructor), and an open library memo (where students research the law themselves).

The best way to learn writing is to do writing, so students are given individualized feedback on their writing and on their first assignment students are required to revise their initial submission and resubmit it. “The reason why one of our assignments requires students to revise the first draft of their memo is that most attorneys improve their legal research and writing skills based on the feedback and comments received from supervisors,” says Mireille Butler, assistant professor of law and interim director of the Legal Research and Writing Program.

At the end of each term, students are given a two-part exam consisting of a Bluebook citation test and a multiple choice section quizzing students on the material covered over the course. The spring semester exam adds a third component: a performance test. “Exams serve a great purpose,” says Butler. “I went to a law school that didn’t have a Legal Research and Writing exam, and I’m converted. Our students know so much more earlier on.”

Students who wish to have additional opportunities to hone their research and writing skills have numerous opportunities to do so. The law school supports four student-edited journals and offers each semester an array of seminars and other courses that provide writing experiences for students. Moreover, Professor Steve Schultz, assistant professor of law, serves as an upper-division legal research and writing professor and teaches courses in writing for second- and third-year students.

Butler says she receives e-mails all summer long from students who thank her for Pepperdine’s demanding program and to share stories of receiving high praise from their supervising attorneys in their summer program. “What we’re doing at Pepperdine is working,” she says.

Recent Scholarly Activity by Legal Research and Writing Faculty

Mireille Butler, “5 Practical Steps to Ensure Your Students Listen – You Can Catch More Flies with Honey!,” Law Teacher, forthcoming Spring 2012 (Institute for Law Teaching and Learning).

Mireille Butler and Hilary Reed, Teaching the Bar Performance Test, 2012 AALS Conference, Legal Research and Writing section, Washington, D.C. (forthcoming January 2012).

Pepperdine hosted the Los Angeles Legal Writing Institute (LWI) Workshop in December 2010. Hilary Reed made a presentation, “Grading Papers and Handling Student Conferences: How to Grade Papers Without Losing Your Mind; Effective Comments; Best Practices” at the conference and is serving on the Program Book Subcommittee for the December 2011 LWI workshop.

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