Friday, November 16, 2012

Terrill Pollman Helps Build Students’ Legal Writing Skills

UNLV William S. Boyd School of Law Professor Terrill Pollman is a nationally recognized expert with a great deal of experience helping law students improve their writing.

Pollman is spending the academic year instructing in the Lawyering Process Program. The LP Program is a three-semester-long curriculum where students complete nine credits in legal analysis, research, writing and skills training.

“In the first-year courses, the students learn the basics of legal analysis, research, and lawyering skills,” she said. “The legal writing classes are active learning classes, where the students are engaged during the class in exercises and learning opportunities.”

Pollman added that she enjoys teaching legal writing because of the opportunity to work with students on a more individual level.

“My first teaching experience in law was teaching legal writing and I loved it,” she said. “You get a lot of time to work with students and it’s really a chance to get to know them in a different way. It’s the only first-year class where they get sustained individual attention on legal analysis, so that’s a great opportunity.”

She also teaches an editing course for an advanced legal writers group.

“The advanced writers group gives students the chance to develop the vocabulary to talk about writing,” she said. “Every firm has a few lawyers who are in demand because they are good writers, care about writing, and can help other lawyers with their writing by being able to articulate the way to turn a mediocre draft into something really good.

“So we give students a chance to sharpen those skills and go beyond the fundamentals and into a more reflective posture about writing,” she said.

Pollman has also written a textbook on legal writing, Examples and Explanations: Legal Writing, which she references while teaching first-year students.

“My book is mostly for first years. It gives students the chance to practice the skills they’re learning without taking the time to create entire new documents,” she said.

She added that she wrote the piece when the publishers asked her to write a book for their “Examples and Explanations” series. She wanted to give the students a textbook that would allow them to apply the skills they learn.

“There are many textbooks for first-year students, but there’s not a lot of help outside of textbooks on subjects like legal writing,” she said.

One thing she noted was that legal writing is unique from other types of writing, like prose or technical pieces.

“The conventions of legal writing are different. It’s more like business or technical writing, but it really is its own animal,” she said. “The principles of good writing are consistent no matter what the genre, but the legal genre is different from other academic or professional writing.”

She added that most students tend to use more elevated language, when in reality it’s better to get to the point and make the piece as accessible as possible.

“Legal readers are busy people, so they need very straightforward analysis that is both concise and precise,” she said.

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