It’s that time of year again . . . time for recently liberated law school grads to enjoy an all-too-fleeting sense of freedom before turning to the task of preparing for the bar exam. This will be my seventh (!!!) year of working with grads studying for the bar. Hopefully all of you will only have to go through this once,* but as someone who has now gone through many, many bar exam study periods, here are a few essential truths that I have observed over time.
Category Archives: Improving Your Writing & Analysis
One of the topics I end up teaching students is how to draft a demand letter. I cover the basics: (1) make a demand; (2) make the demand for a date certain; (3) use the persuasive voice; and (4) document the legal and factual basis for your claim.
While I emphasize that the purpose of a demand letter is to prompt resolution of the matter prior to litigation, I do not generally discuss in depth the distinction between persuasive voice and extortion. It’s never really been an issue.
But now I can point to a counterexample of a demand letter gone wrong. Apparently, a judge considered this demand letter to rise to the level of extortion: https://plus.google.com/109385971027097330016/about?hl=en
Whether the implicit threat of revealing salacious details rises to the level of extortion is a tough call, but also an issue that could have been avoided altogether through a more professional, law-focused approach. (“Law-focused” = focused on your legal claims and the relevant facts that support them–not overblown rhetoric and lurid details. I mean . . . “see enclosed photo”?–really?)
Remember people: You’re a lawyer–not an agent, not a bully, and not a politician. A lawyer. Act like one!
Sharing some excellent advice from legal writing guru Ross Guberman:
This set of thoughts just came together for me this morning, so forgive me if they are as yet poorly formed.
In addition to the techniques mentioned in my last blog post, law professors looking to increase student engagement might also consider the following: after completing a socratic dialogue with one student, ask all of your students to take a moment and reflect on what they think they were supposed to learn from the exercise.
This technique—asking students to consider and articulate learning objectives—can be used in conjunction with any type of exercise, including socratic dialogue. It keep us on our toes by requiring that we be clear about why we are using certain teaching methods, and pushes students to think about and recognize how they are supposed to be learning in law school. If we believe that we are teaching students to “think like a lawyer,” is that in fact what they are perceiving and experiencing?
I have sat in the back of the classrooms of accomplished, engaging, beloved law professors who routinely receive excellent student evaluations, and watched as 70% of their students turn unceremoniously away from their notes, instead perusing gmail, ESPN, and Zappos during class. Not for the whole class, and not during the portions of class where the professor is lecturing. Instead, laptop screens flip en masse at one, distinct moment: when the professor is engaging another student in socratic dialogue.