During the first and second years at Villanova University School of Law, students are required to take three courses in the Legal Writing Program. During the first year, the Legal Research, Analysis, Writing & Oral Communication course is taught jointly with the Legal Research faculty. Students must pass their legal research examination in the fall semester to pass the course as a whole.
The rules governing the Legal Research, Analysis, Writing & Communication Courses are available here.
The following is a description of the Legal Analysis, Writing & Oral Communication courses taught by the Legal Writing faculty.
Legal Research, Analysis, Writing & Oral Communication I
The fall semester objective writing course prepares students for the rigorous training they will receive in legal analysis over the course of their tenure at Villanova Law School by introducing and stressing the foundations that underlie legal analysis of any stripe. Offered to students in their first semester of law school, the fall semester focuses students on how to spot and synthesize the key rules inherent in the cases they are reading and how to use those rules to predict how a court might decide given a particular factual scenario. Students learn how to recognize a solid legal analysis as well as how to formulate their own analyses that properly support the legal conclusions they reach. Students gain significant experience in both research and writing during the fall semester course as they prepare multiple office memoranda throughout the semester. Moreover, they likewise learn how to present their work in various formats, as they are also given short-turnaround assignments that prepare them for a practice world that not only values deep and nuanced analysis, but deep and nuanced analysis that is performed quickly and presented succinctly.
Legal Research, Analysis, Writing & Oral Communication II
Students have two course options in the spring semester of their first year: 1) persuasive writing and communication or 2) international advocacy.
Persuasive writing and communication: The spring semester persuasive writing and communication course builds upon the foundation established in the fall semester by introducing students to the concept of persuasive analysis. Students will learn how to use precedent to craft effective legal arguments, how to draw clear and precise analogies and distinctions, and how to convince a court to issue a ruling favorable to their client. Students will become familiarized with many of the same types of trial court documents they will be asked to prepare as newly-minted attorneys and will draft their own documents as well, with a particularized focus on trial-level motions. In addition, they will engage in oral advocacy on behalf of their client, as they will present their arguments in a moot-court setting. In all, the spring semester persuasive writing and communication course is designed to prepare Villanova Law students to effectively represent their clients in a court of law and become practice-ready attorneys upon graduation.
International advocacy: For the past twenty years, Villanova Law has offered first-year students the unique opportunity to explore issues of international law in the context of their second semester Legal Research, Analysis, Writing, & Oral Communication II course. Today, more than ever, international law affects every lawyer’s practice – whether he or she practices family law, corporate law, litigation, environmental law, or practically any other field of law. In international advocacy, students research, write, and present oral argument on international legal issues that arise regularly in U.S. state and federal courts, and students are exposed to issues that arise in international courts as well. In addition, students meet with Villanova Law alumni and local attorneys who regularly encounter international legal issues in their work. By participating in the international advocacy course, students gain an appreciation of the ways in which international issues will appear in their law practice – even if they never practice law outside of the United States. This dynamic course option prepares Villanova Law students and graduates to recognize and handle international legal matters early on and serves as a great foundation for upper level courses in international and comparative law
Legal Research Analysis, Writing, & Oral Communication III
Students have two course options in either the fall or spring of their second year: 1) transactional writing or 2) appellate advocacy.
Transactional writing: Not all clients are involved in disputes. Much of what lawyers do involves helping clients solve problems and achieve goals outside the context of litigation. Achieving these goals may involve drafting contracts, policies, or other kinds of documents. In this course, students will learn drafting techniques to create these documents, along with other important oral and written communication skills, such as advising, counseling, and translating the law for clients so the clients can make appropriate decisions and avoid future disputes. Effective negotiation techniques and the lawyer’s role as a negotiator will also be introduced to help students prepare to practice in a non-litigation setting.
Appellate advocacy: Employers increasingly expect new associates to be skilled advocates upon graduation from law school. Building upon the foundation established in the first year legal writing courses, appellate advocacy is an intensive writing course that teaches students skills that are essential to successful appellate practice and to effective advocacy in general. Particular emphasis will be placed on the practical aspects of the appellate process, such as mastering the facts in the record, selecting and framing the issues for appeal, identifying and writing within the standard of review, incorporating the policy behind a rule of law, and making critical decisions about strategy and ethics. Students will draft two appellate briefs in their entirety during the semester and learn the nuances of presenting an oral argument before a panel of judges. After completing the appellate advocacy course, students will be prepared to handle an appeal from its inception through oral argument.