Professor Christine Nero Coughlin (JD ’90) tells National Jurist ‘how to excel in legal writing’

Photo of Wake Forest Law Professor Chris Coughlin

Chris Nero Coughlin is a recipient of the Joseph Branch Award for Excellence in Teaching and a two-time recipient of the Graham Award for Excellence in Teaching Legal Research and Writing.

Professor Christine Nero Coughlin (JD ’90), director of the Legal Analysis, Writing and Research (LAWR) Program, was featured in the article, “Get ready for ’1L of a Ride,’” in the Fall 2016 Back to School issue of The National Jurist magazine.  Professor Coughlin tells the National Jurist “How to excel in legal writing.”  Her advice follows.

The article also contains advice from Andrew McClurg of the University of Memphis School of Law, Meredith Duncan of the University of Houston Law Center and Nancy Levit of the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law, as well as excerpts from the book, “Law School: Getting In, Getting Good, Getting the Gold,” by Thane Messinger.

“Make sure you leave sufficient time for editing and proofreading.  This part can take as much, if not more, time than drafting the initial document.  In fact, studies show that successful students spend the majority of their time editing an proofing.

“Your goal is to refine your work product so that it reflects clear and precise legal analysis.  You create clear and precise legal analysis by working off the assumption that the reader is not familiar with the specific issues, authorities, analyses and arguments.

“Clear and precise writing, free of careless mistakes, makes you more credible.  In today’s world, it seems like every small story gets picked up by the national blogs.  You do not want to end up like the attorney who had his motion denied by a federal judge who described the motion as ‘riddled with unprofessional grammatical and typographical errors that nearly renders the entire motion incomprehensible.’  That attorney was ordered by the judge to re-read the rules of civil procedure and hand-deliver a copy of the judge’s edited version of the motion to the client.”