Creative Writing for Lawyers

SLN #: 32425
Course Prefix: LAW-791
Course Section: 040
Credit Hours: 1
Instructor(s): Stuart

Course Description:
This course will meet on 7 Thursdays during the semester. Dates to be determined

This a one-credit workshop/class delivered in seven two-hour sessions. It is designed for law students who already write “clearly, cogently, and comprehensively,” but think there should be more than those three “C’s. There is. I call it creative writing for lawyers. The secret is something lawyers did not learn in law school. We learned it by practicing law. And we learned it first from clients, who demanded more from us than just clarity, cogency, and comprehensive content. Unlike the legal world, the literary world has always demanded systematic focus, a conscious writing style, and an understanding of the patterns that exist in one variation or another (drumroll here). The secret is effective storytelling. The course syllabus is not a story, and just barely qualifies as something the three Cs would be proud of. The syllabus hints at, suggests, and implies what my course is designed to do. It's designed to whet your appetite. If writing for story tastes good to you, then you will use the techniques that fiction writers use in telling their stories. But you will always be bound by the truth; in legal briefs, letters to clients, and in legal opinions. Truth is the law's glue.

This class is a crossover from merely conveying the legal issue to telling the legal story underlying the issue. That’s how Louis Achinloss, Earle Stanly Gardner, John Grisham, John Mortimor, Richard North Patterson, and Scott Turrow did it. All were excellent lawyers before they became best-seller novelists. First, they wrote the law, then they crossed over and wrote fiction. They drafted legal papers the same way they later drafted manuscripts—by using story as the spine of whatever they wrote. They wrote differently from appellate judges whose opinions will control much of your life as a lawyer. And differently from how clients, trial judges, and opposing lawyers expect you to write. If you write for story, in addition the three Cs, you will make judges happy, clients smile, and astound your colleagues.

Perhaps I’m a one-man band, but I think clients and judges deserve more from us than we give them in our writing. Some lawyers practice law in much the same way musicians tune pianos, or cosmeticians apply makeup. They do it competently, but without understanding the value of drama, or the power of dramatic skills. Think about Truman Capote and his gift to the legal world; not to mention his impact on the literary world. He recognized the public’s growing interest in nonfiction, but objected to that genre’s traditionally dry style. Did he have lawyers in mind when he thought about “dry style”? He posed a groundbreaking question in the 1960’s—what would happen if a true story were told in the form of a novel? His 1965 novel (“In Cold Blood”) is a meticulously researched, factual account of the rampage, and ultimate execution of two sociopathic murderers. He melded the accuracy of nonfiction with the dramatic force of fiction. You won’t master any of the vital skills of using storytelling as the spine of legal writing in this class. It’s only seven two-hour workshops. But you’ll extend your legal-literary reach. That will inch you into a new generation of lawyers, some of whom took this class. They now write on the foggy frontier between legal writing and creative nonfiction writing. It might rejuvenate you.

Additional Information:
Credit Hours: 1
Grading Option: Pass/Fail Only
Graduation Writing Requirement: No
Flexible Writing Requirement: No
Skills Requirement: No
Experiential Learning: No
Special Withdrawal Course: No
Limited Enrollment Number: 12
Final Exam Given: No
Attendance Policy: Per Statement Of Student Policies

* The law school has a policy that Is used To calculate credit hours. Please see the Statement of Student Policies.