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April 2, 2014

Professors release new legal writing titles

For lawyers, few skills are as valuable as the ability to write clearly and concisely. Through several new textbooks, two University of Oregon School of Law professors are helping aspiring lawyers around the country cultivate and refine this vital skill.

Professors Megan McAlpin and Joan Rocklin are releasing three legal writing textbooks in 2014, all published by Carolina Academic Press. Each textbook addresses the art of effective legal writing, although the authors focus on distinct aspects of the writing process. 

Beyond the First Draft by Megan McAlpin is founded upon the idea that great writing is a product of great editing. But great editing, McAlpin asserts, is more than just proofreading. Writers who wish to substantially improve the quality of their work must first apply a deliberate, systematic approach to their editing process. Beyond the First Draft provides readers with the tools they need to become skillful editors and, thereby, take their writing to the next level. In Beyond the First Draft, Professor McAlpin makes the grammatical concepts supporting effective editing easily accessible.

"My goal was to make the editing process really easy. I would like for students to realize that through the editing process they can substantially improve their writing," says Professor McAlpin.

Professor McAlpin teaches in Oregon Law’s nationally ranked Legal Research and Writing Program. After teaching the course for several years, Professor McAlpin recognized some students' legal analysis was not actually reflected in their writing–often because they lacked the writing and editing skills required to properly refine their ideas.

"We had a great analysis book written by Professor Rocklin, and Professor [Suzanne] Rowe has written a really great research book, but the thing that was missing was the writing and editing piece. I didn’t have the book, so I wrote it," explains Professor McAlpin.

Whereas Professor McAlpin's work focuses on refining a first draft, Professor Rocklin's books focus on how to develop that first draft. In her first book, A Lawyer Writes, Rocklin (and two co-authors), tackle objective legal analyses. The book places the reader in the shoes of a junior attorney and explains how to develop a compelling legal analysis. A Lawyer Writes was initially released in 2009, and a second edition was published this year. Since it's initial publication, A Lawyer Writes has quickly become a nationally-known legal writing textbook. Oregon Law students who have used the book appreciate it for its straightforward explanations and the many examples it provides. For many students, it's the book they take with them to their first job. The expanded second edition addresses client letters and how to transform an objective analysis to a persuasive analysis.

Like McAlpin, Professor Rocklin also teaches in Oregon Law's Legal Research and Writing Program, and she crafted the book with the needs of her own students in mind.

"Being a teacher, I know where my students have difficulties, and so [A Lawyer Writes] tries to provide guidance before students hit areas that are typically difficult in their writing,” Professor Rocklin says, adding, “It gives step-by-step, practical guidance, and a ton of examples for students to compare their work to."

While the expanded second edition of A Lawyer Writes was released this summer, Professor Rocklin has been busy co-authoring a follow-up book she expects will be available late this year. Her second book, tentatively titled An Advocate Persuades, explains how to transform objective legal analyses into persuasive arguments that would be presented to a court. Like her first book, An Advocate Persuades, takes a practical approach, providing step-by-step guidance and plenty of examples, so that law students and new attorneys can present cohesive, compelling legal arguments.

"I love writing these books because it's a way to share with my students—in a more organized and careful way—information that will be helpful both as students and as they enter the legal profession," says Professor Rocklin.

For additional information about Professor McAlpin's book, visit Beyond the First Draft.

For more information about Professor Rocklin's first book, visit A Lawyer Writes.

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