When I received my first legal writing assignment, I was confidently ambitious.
It was the end of summer before my 1L year, and I thought to myself, “If there’s one challenge I won’t face in law school, it’s legal writing.” After writing undergraduate and master’s theses, challenges with writing were the last thing on my mind. How different could legal writing be?
My confidence dropped when I read the directions: “Please prepare an objective memorandum analyzing the attached case law and identifying the likely outcome of the case.” The cases attached seemed like they were written in an alien language. Suddenly, I doubted my premature confidence in my writing ability.
The first classes of legal writing were dedicated to dissecting the provided cases collaboratively. We worked as a team to brainstorm the common facts and find legal commonalities between the cases. Then we mapped out these common threads on a white board. Within a few weeks, I started to understand how the cases provided with the assignment fit with the facts of the hypothetical case for my objective memorandum.
In class, my legal writing professor demonstrated how to figure out the cases’ legal rules by examining their common factual and legal threads. Next, we compared the facts of our hypothetical case to the provided cases, and worked to predict its legal outcome by examining our newly crafted legal rule. The process of identifying common factual threads and extracting legal rules from precedent progressively helped me understand the method behind legal analysis.
Gradually, my confidence returned.
Handing in the final copy of my first objective memorandum was one of the moments I am most proud of in my first year of law school.
Saige E. Jutras is a JD ’17 candidate at Suffolk University Law School. She is Editor-in-Chief of Suffolk University Law Review, a member of the Duberstein National Moot Court team, and alumni coordinator for the Women’s Law Association. During the summer after her first year, she worked as a judicial intern for the Hon. Timothy S. Hillman in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts.
Learn more about Suffolk Law School’s Legal Practice Skills program at suffolk.edu/law/lps.