Legal Method & Communication Program

Elon Law students engage in small group workshops

Elon Law is committed to providing students with rigorous, innovative instruction in legal research, writing and oral communication.

The Legal Method & Communication Program is led by Catherine Wasson, a member of the Board of Directors of the Association of Legal Writing Directors and co-author of A Practical Guide to Legal Writing & Legal Method. Other program faculty include Distinguished Practitioner-in-Residence John Flynn and Assistant Professors Tom Noble, Robert Parrish and Patricia Perkins.

The Legal Method & Communication curriculum has a legal analysis and writing component, and a research component. The legal analysis and writing component of the course meets for two hours per week during both the fall and spring semesters. Topics in the fall semester include reading legal authorities, understanding the structure of legal rules, traditional organizational paradigms in the legal field, rule-based reasoning, case synthesis, factual analysis, and common law and statutory analysis. Students write and rewrite a variety of assignments, including three case and statutory analyses of increasing length and complexity.

The semester culminates with a full office memorandum involving a new area of law that students must research independently. Research librarians often work with students and their writing professor to prepare a research strategy for the final project. Students have one mandatory individual conference and one mandatory small-group “report to partner” conference with their professor during the fall. All professors also are available to meet individually with students on a drop-in basis and/or by appointment.

The second semester of the course expands on the skills taught in the fall by shifting from objective, advisory writing to persuasive writing in a litigation setting. Topics include persuasive writing techniques, classical rhetorical devices, and types of legal argument. Considerable attention is given to audience, tone, and purpose, and to the lawyer’s roles as advocate and officer of the court. Writing professors also teach students how to research procedural law and court rules in the context of the problems that have been assigned. During the spring semester, students write two trial or appellate briefs dealing with two different cases or with different aspects of the same case. Working in teams, students prepare and deliver a formal oral argument to a panel of judges to close out the spring semester.

In addition to the essential research and writing skills described above, students also receive extensive training in legal citation, composition, and oral communication. Students are taught essential legal research skills one hour per week in the fall semester. Each class focuses on a particular type of legal authority – e.g., statutes, cases, or secondary authorities – and students are taught how to use each authority using both traditional print resources and electronic resources. This approach integrates the teaching of print and electronic resources, and helps students learn how to select from among the multitude of available research resources when they are confronted with various kinds of research projects.