Where Are the Legal Research and Writing Courses

A posting on this week’s Legal Blog Watch highlighted the announcement from Harvard Law School on the reform of its first year curriculum. The revisions, which are the most significant change to first year courses in over 100 years, mean that hours will cut from the core courses – contracts, torts, civil procedure, criminal law and property.

The new courses – “Legislation and Regulation”, “International/comparative courses” and “Problems and Theories” – certainly represent important areas of study for law students. The fact that legal research and writing are not mentioned specifically does not mean that these topics are not included in some of the other courses. It has always been a challenge to explain to lawyers and students the importance of good research and writing skills, and I’m not sure that I could have figured out how to highlight these skill sets in a press release.


  1. Teaching legislation and regulation — i.e. the legislative process, how to interpret legislation, and how changes to legislation affect legal outcomes — goes a long ways towards being able to conduct research in this area. This sounds like an excellent addition to the curriculum.

    The Harvard web page states that the 1L reform will be accompanied by a reform of the upper level, which will include research:

    These reforms complement a reform of the upper level curriculum adopted by the faculty last spring that promotes concentrated and focused study, and application by developing distinctive Programs of Study, organizing classroom, clinical, research, and work opportunities to help students pursue greater progression and depth before graduation. Initial Programs of Study are: Law and Government; Law and Business; Law, Science and Technology; Law and the International Sphere; and Law and Social Change. The new first-year curriculum provides a foundation to enable any student who wishes to pursue an advanced Program of Study.
    [I added the emphasis]

  2. Interesting change in Harvard. I think one of the real issues in legal education is the applicaiton of the “problem based learning” model as is increasingly used in medicine. See http://www.ukcle.ac.uk/resources/pbl/resources.html