A new genre of legal writing: Why Law Schools Should Be Teaching Twitter

Posted on 11-04-2015 by
Tags: new rules , social media , legal writing , new lawyers , LIT , Writing Legally , law students , Latest Headlines & Stories

The article below has been republished in full courtesy of Law360, written by Aebra Coe

Writing for online audiences on platforms such as Twitter and Facebook is a skill that can offer lawyers a distinct career advantage, and law schools should consider making it a core competency of legal education, according to a recent academic paper.

In her paper titled, “Legal Blogging and the Rhetorical Genre of Public Legal Writing,” Emory University School of Law instructor Jennifer Murphy Romig said that despite some recent inroads a handful of law professors have made in teaching future lawyers to write for a public audience, legal education still lacks a well-developed pedagogy about how law students can develop skills to effectively write for online audiences.

Romig’s paper was published on Oct. 19 in the most recent edition of Legal Communication & Rhetoric: Journal of the Association of Legal Writing Directors.

“Legal writing textbooks do not address this kind of writing, nor do advanced legal writing textbooks,” Romig said. “For lawyers and law students, having demonstrable skills in public legal writing should provide an advantage, all other things being equal, over others lacking those skills. Public legal writing is… worthy of consideration as an option in the law school curriculum.”

The instructor said that now is the time to bring scholarly attention to a new genre of legal writing: blog posts, tweets, updates and other writing on social media that many lawyers already generate and that many others would consider generating if they had the time and skill to do so.

The article described the genre of public legal writing as writing by lawyers, not for any specific client but for dissemination to the public or through wide distribution channels, particularly the Internet. The paper included bar journal articles, white papers and client alerts, email newsletters, blog posts, demand letters intended to go viral, posts to LinkedIn groups and profiles, Facebook updates, tweets and captions on platforms such as Pinterest, Instagram and Tumblr.

This differs from the traditional legal writing currently taught by law schools, Romig said, which includes three genres taught as foundational for professional legal writing on behalf of clients: memos, briefs and email.

Despite the lack of a client in public legal writing, one reason to explore it is that some of the methods of good public legal writing overlap with those of good traditional legal writing — for example, a shared interest in conciseness and in the use of headings for visual accessibility, Romig said.

“By studying not only legal blogging but other forms of public legal writing in this way, law students, lawyers and legal writing professors can build their knowledge and skills in this rhetorical practice,” Romig said. “They can build upon what they already know about traditional legal writing, potentially becoming stronger traditional legal writers through their study of public legal writing.”

She added that including legal writing for the public in law school curricula can offer lawyers the skills they need to contribute to the budding genre by continually practicing and redefining what it really is, how it works and what it can become.

The above article has been republished in full and is courtesy of Law360. For the latest breaking news and analysis, visit Law360 today.


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