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First Year Curriculum

Susanna BagdasarovaSusanna Bagdasarova, ABA Death Penalty Representation Project, said legal research and writing class more than adequately prepared her for the hardest, most thorough types of legal writing assignments.

“The effort our professors required us to put into our class assignments during the semester paid off and made the work seem a lot easier.”


First-Year Legal Analysis, Research & Writing Course

The first-year legal writing professors firmly believe that effective communication is the key to being a successful lawyer because, in every area of the law, lawyers write. To be a successful lawyer, one must be an excellent writer. Students at Penn State Law begin their journey to become excellent legal writers in the first-year Legal Analysis, Research and Writing (LARW) course, which is a full year course taught by experienced legal writing faculty. The legal writing professors bring their significant experience in teaching and from practice to the classroom and provide students with the individual feedback and support they need to succeed. 

Law firm simulation

From the first day in the legal writing classroom, first-year students begin to work on behalf of mock clients who have hired a lawyer to help with a particular legal problem. The client may want to know whether a lawsuit can be filed on his behalf, or the client may want to know whether she is likely to be found guilty of a crime. First-year students have the opportunity to experience how a lawyer can help a client solve a problem.  

In the first semester of LARW, the focus is on objective analysis and writing. Students learn to draft office memoranda, which are the fundamental tools for communicating objective analysis. Using the client-based approach, students analyze a client’s legal problem and then write about their prediction of the result of that client’s problem. Students also conduct the legal research necessary to find the legal authority to analyze and apply to the client’s legal issues. Penn State Law’s legal writing professors recognize that the objective writing that lawyers do in practice varies. Therefore, students learn about both traditional office memoranda as well as more informal, email correspondence.

In the second semester of LARW, the focus is on advocating on behalf of clients. Students learn to write client letters as well as briefs filed with a court. Using a client based approach, students are assigned different sides in a lawsuit and must advocate for their clients in court. For example, students must become familiar with the law and the facts of the client’s lawsuit and draft a brief that will be filed with a court. For the last brief that is drafted in LARW, students also present an oral argument to a mock trial judge based on the brief that they filed.

In both semesters, students are guaranteed to receive significant feedback from their legal writing professor. Legal writing professors use class time to workshop and critique writing samples. The professors also provide numerous opportunities for students to have one-on-one conferences to review their writing. Finally, legal writing professors provide detailed, in-depth, and individualized feedback to students about their written submissions.