Posted: June 15th, 2018
Professor Laura Graham (JD ’94), director of the Legal Analysis, Writing, and Research program at Wake Forest Law, authored “Hang in there!” in her latest contribution to the American Association of Law Schools (AALS) Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning, and Research newsletter. The original article follows.
Dear younger me,
I hear you’ve had a tough week. On Monday, a “doctrinal” professor told your students that legal writing isn’t a “real” course. On Tuesday, you watched your colleagues head to a faculty meeting you weren’t allowed to attend. On Wednesday, you missed your daughter’s school play because you had individual conferences with your students late into the evening. On Thursday, you spent the two hours you’d set aside to research for your latest article reviewing a book chapter for your colleague—the same one who said legal writing wasn’t a “real” class— because you didn’t feel like you could say no when he asked. And just yesterday, you got your course evaluations from last semester and were surprised to find that some of your students thought you were “hiding the ball” despite your copious feedback on draft after draft throughout the semester. But hang in there; what you’re doing is indescribably important, and down the road, everyone will recognize that.
Down the road, that “doctrinal” colleague who said legal writing isn’t a “real” course will turn to you for advice on how to integrate more writing into his course, and you and he will become a dynamic team. Together, you’ll deliver the message to your students that “doctrine” and “skills” are inseparable, and your students will embrace that message.
Down the road, it’ll seem inconceivable to most of your colleagues that there was a time you weren’t allowed to attend faculty meetings and that when you finally were allowed to attend, you couldn’t vote. In fact, you’ll regularly be at the front of the room at those meetings, delivering reports for the committees you’ll chair.
Down the road—well, I can’t promise that you won’t be holding individual student conferences late into the evening. But I can promise that your daughter will understand. As she matures, she’ll grow to appreciate your dedication to your work, and she won’t be afraid to take on new challenges, because she will have watched you do the same thing, with grace and grit, year after year.
Down the road, younger legal writing professors will come to you, asking how you’ve made time for your scholarship and how you “shopped” your articles. They’ll have seen you succeed in these areas, and they’ll know that they have the support they need to succeed too, from you and from the many other scholars within the legal writing community.
Down the road, that student who complained that you were “hiding the ball” will be a guest speaker in your class, telling your students how critical good legal research, analysis, and writing are to a lawyer’s work. And she’ll tell them how lucky they are to have you as their legal writing professor and that she wouldn’t be a judge today without the knowledge and skills you gave her.
So hang in there; what you’re doing is indescribably important, and you’re doing an excellent job.