The Master has Become the Student?

I often tell my students that, if they follow my technique for legal writing, they will never experience writer’s block, because it is always entirely apparent what you need to write about next.  The analysis must follow a certain path (or one of a set of viable logical paths), and you will always know when you reach the end—when all of the issues are thoroughly resolved.

A note at the outset: I am confident in my writing technique because it has worked well for me, primarily in my years of drafting judicial opinion after judicial opinion after judicial opinion.  But I express this confidence to my students because I want them to feel confident as well.  I want them to feel that they have a technique for writing that they can always turn to—that they can master it and deploy it at will.  I believe that if you believe you can solve a problem, this is the first and perhaps most important step toward actually solving it.

A quote I keep on my wall for my students:

Most successful people begin with two beliefs: the future can be better than the present, and I have the power to make it so.

So, all that being said, I have suffered from a form of writer’s block for the past few months when it comes to this blog.  There have been reasons for it, but at the end of the day I have desperately wanted to revive it, and yet have found myself intimidated.

Why doesn’t my sage advice about legal writing transfer to this format?  It’s because the relief and ease of legal writing is that many of the parameters of your effort are set.  You have a mission.  You have an audience.  There is an appropriate tone, style, and voice.  You must proceed in a logical, organized fashion.  You must rely on precedent or, in the absence of precedent, reason.

By contrast, this format has none of those comforting constraints.  Which is what is fun and challenging and (I hope) readable about it, but also intimidating when you get deep into the semester of teaching students that the written word serves a single, narrowly defined purpose.

But I have finally been shaken from my self-indulgent fear by learning that at least one student saw fit to nominate me for the Student Bar Association Mentorship Award, citing in particular my posting to this blog as an act of mentorship.  First, I am exceedingly gratified by the nomination, because this is really the reason I teach, and the opinions of my students mean a great deal to me.  Second, the comment reconnected me to the purpose of writing here, which is to reach students about all of the “secondary” issues swirling around law school education—the social, emotional, and psychological dimensions of the experience.  I truly believe those issues need to be aired somewhere.

Thank you all for your patience, and as always, I most want to hear your thoughts and experiences.


4 responses to “The Master has Become the Student?

  1. Congrats on the award! Well deserved.

    • susannahpollvogt

      Thank you! I did not actually win the award; I was just nominated. But that was an honor, believe me.

  2. “relief and ease of legal writing” – I wish I knew what that felt like. I’ve suffered from writer’s block my entire life 🙂 On a positive note, I really enjoy this blog. I’ve connected with most of the posts and it’s nice to know others experience the same feelings I have with law school and working at a law firm. So thank you!

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