Professor Laura Graham (JD ’94) to lead Legal Analysis, Writing and Research (LAWR) Program

Photo of Professor Laura Graham

Laura Graham has been teaching Legal Analysis, Writing and Research and Appellate Advocacy at Wake Forest since 1999. Her research and speaking interests center on how to maximize beginning law students' early success in legal writing.

Professor Laura Graham (JD ’94) will take over as director of Wake Forest Law’s Legal Analysis, Writing and Research (LAWR) Program as of July 1, 2017.

Graham, who has served as assistant director of LAWR since 2012 as well as the University’s pre-law adviser, will assume leadership of the program from Professor Christine Nero Coughlin (JD ’90), who is stepping down from the position after 17 years.

“I’m honored and excited to assume the directorship of the nationally-ranked LAWR program that has developed under Chris Coughlin’s leadership,” Graham says. “We’ve grown from a two-semester, three-credit program to a three-semester, six-credit program, and we’ve tripled the number of writing courses offered within the program. One of my goals is to continue to expand the LAWR program to give our students even more opportunities to refine their legal communication skills throughout their three years here.”

Graham adds that she is particularly interested in exploring how more writing can be integrated throughout the law school curriculum. “The more our students can practice communicating legal analysis in a variety of settings, the more ready they will be to hit the ground running when they leave Wake Forest Law,” she explains.

Coughlin says,  “Wake Forest Law is lucky to have Laura Graham leading its LAWR program. Laura has a national reputation as an outstanding teacher and scholar in the legal analysis, writing and research community.  In fact, her innovative scholarship sparked a nationwide discussion on best practices in teaching the process of legal analysis throughout the law school curriculum.  Her knowledge about how to best help beginning law students succeed and her commitment to students, to the LAWR program and to Wake Forest have always been inspirational.  

She will be particularly helpful in integrating the LAWR program further with other programs offered by the the law school, most particularly the Academic Engagement Program (AEP).”

In her new role, Graham also plans to focus on supporting the professional growth of the LAWR faculty.  “We are fortunate to have a very active and prolific group; our LAWR faculty members are constantly publishing and constantly presenting at various regional and national conferences,” she says. “Their work not only makes them more effective in the classroom; it also enhances the excellent reputation of Wake Forest Law.”

Winner of the first Graham Award for Excellence in Teaching Legal Research and Writing, which was instituted in her name, Graham has been teaching LAWR, Appellate Advocacy and Judicial Writing at Wake Forest since 1999. Her research and speaking interests center on how to maximize beginning law students’ early success in legal writing.

Graham is an active member of the national legal writing community.  She currently serves on the Innovative Teaching Committee of the Association of Legal Writing Directors, and she has co-chaired the New Member Outreach Committee of the Legal Writing Institute (LWI).  Last December, under her leadership, Wake Forest Law hosted a LWI One-Day Workshop featuring several nationally renowned speakers.

In 2010, the legal writing program changed its name from Legal Research & Writing (LRW) to LAWR after Graham and now-retired Professor Miki Felsenburg (JD ’91) designed and conducted a groundbreaking empirical study. The study focused on students’ experiences in legal research and writing and resulted in their recommendations to improve the first-year program. Details are set forth in their article “Beginning Legal Writers In Their Own Words:  Why The First Weeks of Legal Writing Are So Tough and What We Can Do About It.”

As a follow-up to the study,  Graham and Felsenburg co-authored a book called “The Pre-Writing Handbook: A Step-by-Step Guide for Law Students,” which was published by Carolina Academic Press in Spring 2013. She also pens a regular column about legal writing for the NCBA’s North Carolina Lawyer magazine.

Prior to joining the faculty, Graham served as judicial clerk for Judge Ralph Walker of the North Carolina Court of Appeals and was in private practice in Jacksonville, North Carolina, specializing in domestic law and appellate practice.

Graham is a Double Deac, graduating summa cum laude from Wake Forest University with a bachelor’s of arts in 1986. She was the recipient of the 1994 Outstanding Woman Law Graduate Award. She and her husband, Joseph, a retired Naval officer, are the parents of Ellen, a rising college freshman.