Thorough research, logical analysis, persuasive reasoning and strong written and oral communication skills are the hallmarks of an excellent lawyer. From the first-year Introduction to Legal Studies course through graduation, the Legal Method & Communication Program at Elon Law provides students with the rigorous, innovative instruction in legal research, writing and oral communication that will help them become effective practitioners.
The Legal Method & Communication Program involves more than a dozen professors and specialists and operates across the law school curriculum. The program is led by Professor Sue Liemer. Other program faculty include Professors Tom Noble and Patricia Perkins, Distinguished Practitioner-in-Residence John Flynn, and Legal Method & Communication Fellows Tiffany Atkins, Elliott Engstrom, Heather Gram, and Drew Simshaw. In addition, three dual-degreed lawyer/librarians teach Legal Research and students can visit the Elon Law Writing Lab for individual assistance from two Writing Specialists. All students also work with an Executive Coach to develop their speaking skills, in addition advocacy skills honed in Elon Law’s extensive Trial Practice Program.
The seven-credit first-year Legal Method & Communication curriculum consists of three two-credit trimesters (Legal Method & Communication I, II and III) and a one-credit Legal Research course that runs from October to March. Each term is carefully sequenced to teach students the essential skills needed to solve legal problems. The first-year curriculum is the foundational skills course at Elon Law; students are placed in the role of law clerk, lawyer or judge from the first day of class. Research and writing assignments are presented via a series of simulations during which students watch client interviews, provide research and objective advice to a supervisor, maintain client files and time sheets, prepare written and oral progress reports for a supervising attorney, write and orally argue motions on behalf of a client, write a brief to an appellate court and deliver a formal oral argument to a panel of judges.
Topics in the fall term include reading legal authorities, understanding the structure of legal rules, traditional organizational paradigms in the legal field, legal citation, rule-based reasoning, case synthesis and common law analysis. The winter and spring terms provide students with numerous opportunities to practice these skills while studying more advanced topics, such as statutory interpretation and analysis, persuasive writing techniques, classical rhetorical devices and types of legal argument. During their Legal Research class students learn how to find and evaluate primary and secondary legal authorities, and how to do cost-effective legal research using both hard copy and electronic resources. Writing professors teach students how to research procedural law and court rules in conjunction with writing assignments given in the winter and spring. Throughout the year considerable attention is given to the importance of audience, tone and purpose when writing or speaking, and students are introduced to the ethical and professional implications of the lawyer’s dual roles of advocate and officer of the court.
Elon Law’s commitment to comprehensive written and oral communication training continues after a student’s first year. All upper-level students must complete an advanced writing requirement and an off-campus residency placement. The advanced writing requirement can be satisfied in a variety of ways – e.g., by taking an advanced writing course such as Business Drafting, writing a law review note or seminar paper or completing another writing-intensive course or project. During their residency term, students will perform a variety of research, writing and advocacy projects for their placement supervisors. Courses like Negotiation, Trial Advocacy and Moot Court also require students to expand and refine their communication skills.