LEGAL WRITING & RESEARCH CURRICULUM
Legal Writing Curriculum
During the first and second years at Villanova University Charles Widger 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.
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 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.
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.
For more than 20 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.
Students have two course options in either the fall or spring of their second year: 1) transactional writing or 2) appellate advocacy.
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. Students will do both individual and group projects, including writing assignments and oral presentations.
Legal Research Analysis, Writing, & Oral Communication III: Litigation /Appellate Advocacy and the Theodore L. Reimel Competition (Fall Semester)
This intensive 3-credit course teaches skills that are essential to successful appellate practice and written and oral advocacy more generally. The class begins by focusing on the different roles of the trial and appellate courts and the limitations imposed on appellate tribunals, including the standards of review. The class then concentrates on techniques for writing each section of an appellate brief persuasively, including the Argument, Question Presented, Statement of the Case, and Summary of the Argument. Students who enroll in appellate advocacy in the fall semester participate in the Theodore L. Reimel Moot Court Competition as part of the course. The Reimel Competition is an annual intra-school tournament and a hallowed tradition at Villanova Law that is designed to foster student development in written and oral advocacy through simulated appellate argument. Throughout the semester, students work in teams to draft a two issue appellate brief. Students may choose their teammate or request an assigned partner. In November, each team participates in at least two oral arguments before panels of judges comprised of esteemed members of the legal community who give the participants meaningful feedback. The 59th Annual Reimel Competition will be held in November 2018, and the appellate problem will pertain to business law.
Legal Research Analysis, Writing, & Oral Communication III: Litigation /Appellate Advocacy (Spring Semester)
This 2-credit course teaches skills that are essential to successful appellate practice and written and oral advocacy more generally. The class begins by focusing on the different roles of the trial and appellate courts and the limitations imposed on appellate tribunals, including the standards of review. The class then concentrates on techniques for writing each section of an appellate brief persuasively, including the Argument, Question Presented, Statement of the Case, and Summary of the Argument. Throughout the semester, students work individually to draft a single issue appellate brief. In April, students will have the opportunity to participate in appellate oral arguments as both an advocate and a judge. Please note that students who take appellate advocacy in the spring do not participate in the Reimel Competition as part of the course; however, all 3Ls are welcome to participate in the Competition.
Legal Research Component
Legal research is an essential lawyering skill and Villanova law students begin developing their research skills the first week of law school. It begins with the legal research component of the first year Legal Research, Writing, Analysis & Communication Course.
Taught by expert law librarians, you will learn about the various sources of law in the U.S. legal system and how to search, identify, analyze, and use a wide array of legal sources. A strong emphasis is placed on effective search strategies and the importance of evaluating and validating information sources. Weekly research assignments and in-class exercises provide many opportunities for hands-on learning. The Villanova Law legal research 1L curriculum is designed to prepare students for their legal writing assignments and to provide a solid foundation for their summer legal employment and second year coursework as well participation on journals and Moot Court.
The following is a description of the additional Legal Research courses taught by the Legal Writing faculty.
The Advanced Legal Research course is an elective offered to second and third year students. This course expands upon the research strategies and resources first presented in the required Legal Research,Writing, Analysis & Communication classes.
Students explore standard and specialized legal and non-legal information resources, including selected legal practice-oriented materials such as
- legal forms
- subject-specific legal treatises and practice guides
- court rules
- and bar publications.
Students also sharpen and refine their ability to develop efficient and effective research strategies in preparation to meet the widely varied information needs of modern legal practice. Legal research topics covered include, among others, administrative law, environmental law, international law, admiralty law, and legislative histories. Topics and resources for non-legal research, in such fields as business and medicine, are also presented.
The legal research instructors regularly provide subject-specific research sessions in second and third year courses. Recent topics include:
- administrative law
- intellectual property
- researching the financial crisis
- international law
- international environmental law
- international arbitration
- fact investigations
- and family law