Learning Objectives


LARAW Faculty’s Articulation of Learning Objectives For First-Year LARAW1

The overall goal of the program (taken from the Sourcebook on Legal Writing Programs) is to make “each student self-sufficient, able to independently analyze, research, synthesize, and communicate each new problem.”2

These learning objectives should inform the instructors’ design of problems and selection of teaching methods.  In other words, LARAW instructors should design problems and select teaching methods so as to accomplish these learning objectives.

A. Legal Analysis3

1. Basic understanding of United States legal system – Students should understand:

  • the dual system of federal and state law, the vertical structure and hierarchy of the court systems in both the federal and state governments, and the relationships of the courts to each other;
  • the significance of precedent and the doctrine of stare decisis, the difference between binding and persuasive authority, the difference between primary and secondary authority, and the concept of weight of authority; and
  • the difference between common and statutory law.

2. Critical reading and understanding of legal authorities – Students should learn to:

  • understand and outline the rules set out in constitutions, statutes, court decisions, and administrative regulations;
  • understand the relationship between statutes, case law, and regulations in terms of the formation and development of rules;
  • use the canons of statutory construction;
  • identify the relevant facts, the issue(s), the court’s holding(s), the court’s reasoning, and the rules of law set out in court decisions;
  • distinguish holding and dicta;
  • prepare case briefs, including the components of facts, issue statement, legal rules, holding, and court’s reasoning;
  • recognize and identify common rule structures, including:
    • Simple rule;
    • Rule with elements (conjunctive);
    • Rule with factors;
    • Rule with either/or (disjunctive);
    • Rule with balancing test; and
    • Rule with exceptions;.
  • identify the three principal types of legal issues — issues of fact, issues of law, and mixed questions of law and fact – and the appropriate analytical approach for each;
  • understand that issues of law may be procedural or substantive and that these issues may overlap;
  • identify and distinguish between threshold and main issues;
  • recognize public policy considerations in legal authorities and their role in the formation and interpretation of rules;
  • recognize the indeterminacies in legal authority; and
  • critically evaluate the analysis and reasoning in court decisions.

3. Synthesis of rules from various authorities – Students should learn to:

  • synthesize rules from various authorities. In other words, students should be able to read a series of primary source authorities and extract from them their common doctrine and policy. This may involve grouping cases that follow different rules; extrapolating rules from various cases on the same topic where the basis for the decision has not been articulated in any single case, and recognizing sub-rules articulated in successive decisions to explain, supplement, or develop a primary rule; and
  • recognize conflicts between legal authorities, understand whether it is appropriate to resolve the conflicts through reconciling the conflicting authorities or through distinguishing a conflicting authority, and learn techniques for reconciling and distinguishing authorities.

4. Recognition of legal issues – Students should learn to:

  • identify the legal issue(s) in the problem cases assigned to them; and
  • anticipate the possible formulation of the legal issue(s) by an opposing party.

5. Acquisition of legal vocabulary

  • Students should learn standard legal terms and be able to use those terms accurately.

B. Legal Writing4

1. Ability to draft common legal documents – Students should:

  • learn and practice appropriate preparation for writing legal documents through the use of outlining, charts, or other preparatory methods;
  • become familiar with the format and content of specific types of common legal documents, including (i) case briefs; (ii) memoranda that provide objective evaluation of legal issues; (iii) writings that advocate a position on legal issues (e.g., memorandum of points and authorities); and (iv) written communications to clients that advise clients about legal issues and options in a given case;
  • for the above-listed documents, learn to write the following components effectively, accurately, precisely, completely, concisely, and ethically: statements of facts, brief answers or argument point headings, issue statements, and legal analysis or argument;
  • understand the difference between predictive (objective) and persuasive legal writing;
  • learn to adapt their writing style and tone depending on the purpose and audience of the document in question;  and
  • for documents presented to a court, learn to comply with requirements in the appropriate code of civil procedure, any other statutory or regulatory requirements, and requirements of local court rules.

2. Skill in organizing legal analysis and argument – Students should be able to:

  • create a logical organization of their written documents based on the issues in a given case;
  • synthesize and explain clearly a complex series of rules, including the relationship between the rules and between subparts of a rule;
  • understand the concepts of thesis paragraphs and thesis statements and their function as organizing tools;
  • write a thesis (or introductory) paragraph that sets out the student’s conclusion and summarizes the reasons for that conclusion; and
  • understand and use the organizational structure of umbrella (or main) section and sub-sections, and headings and subheadings, where appropriate.

3. Skills in English expression – Students should learn and practice skills in English expression, including:

  • logical organization;
  • proper paragraphing, so that each paragraph or paragraph block is limited to one central idea, shows coherence and unity, and contains a topic sentence or thesis statement to which the rest of the paragraph relates;
  • correct sentence structure;
  • effective use of transitions;
  • clear, concise, and direct sentences;
  • appropriate and precise choice of words;
  • proper grammar, punctuation, spelling, and capitalization; and
  • a preference for active over passive voice.

4. Use of legal authorities in written documents – Students should be able to:

  • use legal authorities for the following purposes: as precedent for rules, that is, to establish the governing rule structure; as examples of how courts have applied those rules; to analogize with or to distinguish from the case in point to support a legal conclusion; and as support for policy arguments;  and
  • use a syllogism to convey legal analysis in one of the conventional paradigms, such as IRAC, CRAC, or CReAC. Using these paradigms, students should be  able to set out and synthesize the applicable legal rules and apply the rules to the facts of the assigned case, using a careful, step-by-step progression.

5. Persuasive writing – Students should learn to:

  • use persuasive writing techniques, such as word choice, placement of facts and arguments, emphasis, and de-emphasis;
  • use principles of logic and argument;
  • make appropriate arguments based on precedent, interpretation of case law, analogy, distinction, policy, and legislative history;
  • identify weaknesses in their case and anticipate and address counterpoints;
  • select the most favorable and strongest precedent in support of their arguments;
  • assess the strength of their arguments and make appropriate judgments on which arguments to include; and
  • use ideas creatively within the scope of acceptable legal discourse.

6. Editing skills – Students should:

  • understand the importance of revision in legal writing;
  • learn and practice critical self-editing and rewriting, including evaluation for identification of issues, organization, clarity of expression, and writing style considerations; and
  • be able to identify good legal writing.

7. Correct use of legal citation – Students should:

  • learn to use a citation/style manual or system;
  • learn and practice correct use of legal citation to state and federal Constitutions, statutes, regulations, and decisions, and to law review articles, so as to provide adequate and accurate authority for their legal statements; and
  • in particular, learn and be familiar with the rules of legal citation contained in the Bluebook Bluepages and Rules 1 (structure and use of citations), 4 (short citation forms), 5 (formatting of quotations), 6 (abbreviations, numerals, and symbols), 7 (italicization), 10 (cases), 11 (constitutions), and 12 (statutes), and should be able to use the index and table of contents in the Bluebook to find the answers to other citation questions.

C. Legal Research5

Students should learn to:

  • recognize the difference between primary and secondary legal authority and understand the functions and appropriate use of each;
  • use the following primary authorities:  state and federal cases in both official and unofficial reporters; state and federal constitutions, statutes, regulations, and court rules;
  • use the following secondary sources:  encyclopedias, annotations, legal periodicals, treatises, and Restatements of Law.  Instructors may also introduce students to formularies;
  • articulate effective research queries;
  • develop effective research search terms;
  • locate relevant secondary and primary legal sources in both print and electronic media through legal research;
  • to access legal sources by index, table of content/topical outline, West Key Number system, and table of cases.  In electronic media, they should also learn how to access legal authorities using online citations, Boolean searches, field searches, and natural language searches;
  • become familiar with both commercial and free legal electronic sources;
  • understand the relative benefits of print and electronic research and be able to combine these two forms of research effectively in researching a given issue;
  • understand the publication and codification of statutes and be familiar with bills, public laws, the United States Statutes at Large, and how laws are codified in the United States Code.  Students should also understand that some laws and portions of laws are not codified;
  • understand why and how one researches legislative history in both print and electronic media;
  • understand how regulations are promulgated and be familiar with the Federal Register and the Code of Federal Regulations;
  • devise and employ a research strategy, manage research time wisely, and understand the value of keeping a research journal or notes;
  • obtain subsequent history of primary and secondary legal authorities through electronic means and should be familiar with the basic process of updating legal authority through print sources. Students should be able to accurately evaluate the subsequent history for the purposes of verifying that authority is currently valid and of identifying relevant additional authorities;
  • develop a sense of when their research is complete; and
  • understand the extent to which unreported decisions may be used in legal documents and arguments.

D. Other desirable learning outcomes

The following learning outcomes may also be included:

1. Legal ethics and professionalism – Students should:

  • be introduced to the portions of the Model Rules of Professional Conduct or state ethical rules that concern legal research and writing, particularly the prohibitions on making false statements of law or fact, the requirements of advising clients candidly and thoroughly, and the requirement of advising the court of contrary binding authority, where opposing counsel does not do so; and
  • recognize the importance and practice the following components of professionalism:  timeliness; honesty; quality, appearance and thoroughness of work product; compliance with ethical responsibilities; compliance with local court rules; independent thought and work; and courtesy to the court, opposing counsel, and all persons involved in the legal process.

2.  Oral advocacy skills – Students should learn:

  • the purpose of oral presentations before a trial court;
  • the basic components of an oral presentation to a court;
  • to prepare and deliver an oral  “roadmap;”
  • to address counterparts and weaknesses in their arguments orally; and
  • to practice public speaking skills.

3. Exam preparation or review

4.  Certain lawyering skills (interviewing, counseling, or negotiation)

1The LARAW faculty compiled this list of learning objectives for the first-year LARAW course. The list is based upon the Academic Affairs Committee’s Statement of Purpose, Goals, and Structure for Legal Analysis, Research, and Writing Program and the recommendations set out in the ABA’s Sourcebook on Legal Writing Programs. It also takes into account educational objectives forwarded to us by professors at other law schools and the educational objectives currently used by our own LARAW faculty. This list does not replace the goals listed in the Committee’s Statement; rather, it seeks to expand on them and make them more specific. While this list includes all three goals identified in the Committee’s Statement, this list rearranges the order of those goals to simplify combining information from multiple sources.
2ABA Section of Legal Educ. & Admissions to the Bar, Sourcebook on Legal Writing Programs 8 (1997).
3See Academic Affairs Committee’s Statement of Purpose, Goals, and Structure for Legal Analysis, Research, and Writing Program, sec. B.3.
4See Academic Affairs Committee’s Statement of Purpose, Goals, and Structure for Legal Analysis, Research, and Writing Program, sec. B.1.
5See Academic Affairs Committee’s Statement of Purpose, Goals, and Structure for Legal Analysis, Research, and Writing Program, sec. B.2.