Sine Qua Non (“Without which, nothing.”)
When asked, attorneys and judges will say that the most important skill a new lawyer can have is to be able to write well. To achieve excellent writing, a lawyer must first be proficient in legal research and ,second, accurately evaluate and analyze the sources applicable to the client’s issues. The University of Houston Law Center recognizes the legal community demands these skills of its graduates. Therefore, we emphasize the development of Lawyering Skills and Strategies skills in the first year curriculum, in a two-semester, four-hour required course.
Lawyering Skills and Strategies at the University of Houston is taught to full-time and part-time students by eight full-time and one part-time Clinical Professors of Lawyering Skills and Strategies. Each of these faculty members has extensive legal experience and brings that knowledge into the classroom.
In the fall semester, Legal Research, Analysis, and Predictive Writing students focus on learning basic legal research and legal analysis, with emphasis on synthesis of cases to derive rules, interaction between statutes and cases, and application of the law to particular fact situations. Students first synthesize case law that is provided to them, apply the derived rules of law to a given fact situation, and present the analysis in a written discussion as the major section of an office memorandum. Students then repeat the synthesis and analysis process in a complete memorandum, but they first must research the law independently to find law applicable to the issues presented.
In the spring semester, Legal Research and Advocacy, the writing focus is on persuasive and reflective writing, and students broaden their research skills. Written advocacy, consisting of persuasive writing and related research, is taught in the context of students’ writing a motion for summary judgment and then an appellate brief. Oral advocacy is taught in the classes and by students’ participating in the first-year John Black Moot Court Competition. Reflective writing and related research, which is writing that reflects clients’ wishes, e.g., contracts and company policies, are taught in the context of students’ preparing an employment contract or similar document. In the spring students also are introduced to the basics of scholarly writing to help prepare them for working on one of the six law journals on campus.
University of Houston Law Center
Legal Research & Writing
100 Law Center
Houston, Texas 77204-6060