As I approach the last few weeks of my legal education I begin to ask myself: Am I ready? Am I a well-trained individual ready to take on any challenge thrown my way? Or at least a competent individual with the basic skills necessary to write my first “real” memo? I have spent the last seven years in university researching and writing multiple papers; is that enough?
Even in my third year I find myself turning to the student next to me, whispering, “Where would I find that?” or “How do I cite that?” As embarrassing as this is, I find some comfort in the fact that often they don’t know either. Despite this reassurance that I’m not alone, this leads me to think that perhaps we are leaving law school under-prepared to enter the work force, without the tools required for adequate legal research and writing.
Some may argue that to take legal research and writing in first year is sufficient. I would have to disagree. With the mass amounts of new material that first years are expected to absorb, it is no surprise that the class spent on citations has slipped their memories by the end of their third year. This is especially true for students who have enrolled in mostly exam-based classes. As such, I think it would be beneficial for all law students to take advanced legal research and writing as a required class.
This would ensure that students get a second opportunity to further their skills so as to become proficient in both legal research and writing. This would be particularly beneficial as upper year students have a more solid understanding of basic legal concepts. This would allow them to focus on the actual research and writing rather than getting bogged down by their concerns with understanding the law in a more general sense, as may be the case with many first years.
I am by no means making the claim that law students are incompetent in their abilities to perform legal research and writing and I am sure that many of us are ready to jump into the work force. However, all of us could improve—law graduates would be better prepared for the job market if they had the additional practice that advanced legal research and writing offers. Thus, to make advanced legal research and writing a required course would be beneficial to all students and their future employers.