By Kathleen Elliott Vinson

Excitement mixed with a little panic. These are typical feelings of an incoming 1L at law schools across the country in September. As students start their first year of law school, I am often asked for tips, especially when it comes to writing.

“I am not good at writing.”

“I don’t like to write.”

“Writing isn’t my strength.”

“I don’t have a lot of writing experience.” Students who are not confident in their writing abilities often raise these concerns.

Even if you have a writing background (which is not required to succeed!), legal writing is a different type of writing than what you may have done in undergraduate or other graduate classes or even in a work setting. Being fluent in Italian does not mean you could immediately speak fluent French if you landed in Paris one day. Thus, it takes time, patience, and perseverance when learning a new type of communication – in law school that’s legal writing. Be open to a new format, style, organization, and citation form in legal writing, which may seem foreign to you at first.

Kathleen Elliott Vinson is a Professor of Legal Writing and Director of Legal Writing, Research and Written Advocacy at Suffolk University Law School in Boston. For more on Suffolk’s legal writing program, visit