The LRW and Federal Litigation courses are designed to challenge students with work that corresponds to their growing sophistication in legal analysis and writing. Students are introduced to predictive and persuasive analysis in the context of a pre-litigation client simulation in the fall, and they refine their persuasive writing in Federal Litigation in the winter and spring.
The two-unit fall LRW course is taught as a simulation. The simulation materials consist of mock client interviews, depositions, contracts, letters and exhibits—the raw materials from which students will derive the facts of the case and will ultimately craft a narrative in their memos and briefs. Students work independently and in groups to resolve a client’s legal problem. By situating the legal writing assignments in the context of legal problem-solving, students learn through experience the interplay between fact investigation, legal research, legal analysis and writing. Law students, in their roles as lawyers, work collaboratively with co-counsel and opposing counsel. We use this realistic work setting to emphasize such professional norms as timeliness, precision, ethical advocacy, and courtesy, in addition to teaching legal strategy.
In the fall, students are taught to read and analyze legal authority. Students closely read legal opinions and learn how to recognize the strategies adopted by legal writers to subtly persuade their audiences of the correctness of their analysis. Students then learn how to deploy these strategies—legal analysis, logic, narrative, rhetoric, analogy and distinction, overarching legal theory and public policy—to frame and develop a legal argument based on legal authority. Students are taught to express their analysis with the clarity and precision that is the hallmark of excellent practicing lawyers.
Legal research instruction is integrated into the simulation, and our students engage in various legal research methods to solve the client’s legal problem. Students learn to use both traditional and electronic resources from the beginning of their first year. Over the course of the year, students research issues involving state and federal law, and use a broad range of legal authorities, including judicial opinions, statutes, legislative history, administrative regulations, law review articles, encyclopedias and practice manuals. Research is taught by both librarian lecturers, who bring their vast knowledge of traditional and electronic resources, and LRW lecturers, who teach using a process-oriented approach familiar to practicing lawyers. By the conclusion of the course, students are exposed to all major legal research methods.
In the winter and spring, students develop further their analytical and persuasive writing skills in the context of the four-unit Federal Litigation course. Given the solid foundation of the fall program, students are able to tackle challenging legal issues requiring in-depth analysis. Throughout the course students write multiple trial-level briefs, such as briefs in support of and opposition to motions to dismiss, a motion to certify a class action, and a motion for a preliminary injunction. Students also practice and moot the oral arguments on each of these motions, sometimes in the role of advocate, and sometimes in the role of judge. The recursive process of analyzing, writing and arguing each of these motions solidifies for our students the intellectual skills that are essential to the practice of law.
The fall LRW course is taught in small classes of approximately 30 students per section; the winter and spring course student-teacher ratio is reduced to 18 students per section. Each lecturer teaches only one section, so SLS has one of the lowest student-teacher ratios in the country for programs with full-time teachers. This allows students to receive a great deal of individual attention, with intensive written feedback and individual conferences with lecturers. All writing feedback is provided by lecturers, not student assistants.
The LRW and Federal Litigation faculty are Stanford Law Fellows and experienced lecturers. Fellows are selected based on their law practice experience, academic achievement, promise as legal scholars, and enthusiasm for teaching. The non-Fellow lecturers have at least ten years of experience teaching in a variety of skills-based courses, including Kirkwood Moot Court, Federal Litigation and Trial Advocacy.