September 26, 2007
Advice to Erwin Chemerinsky
Posted by Gordon Smith

Paul Caron and Bill Henderson solicited my input for their series "Advice for Erwin Chemerinsky." You can find all of the contributions at Paul's TaxProfBlog. If you are particularly interested in mine, it went up this morning. Note that I was responding to the challenge to offer the "single best idea for reforming legal education." Of course, I wanted to be provocative, so the hate mail from legal writing instructors and clinicians should be rolling in at any moment now ...

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Comments (12)

11. Posted by Coleen Barger on September 26, 2007 @ 18:54 | Permalink

You wrote, "Many of us embed the teaching of legal skills in our substantive law classes. If I give my Contracts students a contract drafting assignment, for example, I am teaching skills."
I haven't seen very much of that in substantive courses, so I'd like to learn more. Please share with us the details of the ways you incorporate writing and other legal skills in your Contracts and other courses. I'm also interested in the kinds of feedback you give your students (how many of them do you teach at a time?), and how often they receive that feedback. I'm sure other substantive law professors are eager to hear this, too, so they can start doing the same things.

12. Posted by Gordon Smith on September 26, 2007 @ 21:28 | Permalink


I did this particular assignment in my small group (20-25 students) Contracts class at Wisconsin. The comment from Anthony also comes from the small group program. Under that program, professors with small groups were expected to do at least two writing assignments per semester. As you know, writing assignments are time consuming for both students and faculty, so I have done this only in small classes.

One of my assignments was always a drafting assignment (because I was a transactional lawyer and because the first-year legal writing at Wisconsin focused on litigation assignments). I gave the students a real contract with one of the provisions crossed out and asked them to draft the revised provision. They also had an opportunity to explain the choices they made in their drafting. We did a bit of instruction on contract drafting in advance, and we discussed the actual provision that was drafted by the parties after. It was a pretty simple assignment, but I always felt that the students who took it seriously learned something valuable about contracts.

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