Students are required to take Legal Research and Writing I and Legal Research and Writing II in their first year of study. Although these courses are related, each has a different focus.
Legal Research and Writing I introduces students to the ways lawyers think about, research, and write about the law. Students learn how to analyze legal problems and become familiar with the types of legal authority that are likely to govern them. They are taught the best practices for conducting efficient and effective research for relevant cases and statutes in paper and electronic media. Students master the skills needed to define the questions a client’s case presents, to locate the governing law, to interpret that law, and to assess the relative strengths and weaknesses of the case with a view to predicting its outcome. They learn how to present their conclusions in a written office memorandum. The memorandum explains the relevant rules of law and uses their application in prior cases to reach an objective assessment of the client’s prospects, which serves as the basis of subsequent advice to the client concerning potential courses of action.
Legal Research and Writing II focuses on advocating for the client’s interests once the client has determined the course of action he or she wishes to pursue. Students learn how to craft persuasive arguments addressed to courts in trial memoranda and appellate briefs. At the same time, they are introduced to additional sources of law such as administrative law and international law and receive instruction in the use of more advanced legal research tools to help them find the authorities to support their persuasive arguments. The course concludes with an oral argument before a faculty-member judge in which each student argues for the position addressed in his or her appellate brief against a student arguing for the other side.
In addition to taking Legal Research and Writing I and II, students must fulfill a substantial writing requirement before graduation. Many students enroll in a two-credit paper seminar to meet this requirement. These seminars, which focus on specialized areas of the law, are small-group classes taught by experts in the field, who may be members of the regular faculty or practitioners appointed to the adjunct faculty. Each seminar requires students to complete a major research paper of publishable quality relating to the topic of the course. The production of a research paper of similar quality through supervised research under the guidance of a faculty member presents a further option. Students can also fulfill their substantial writing requirement through service on one of South Texas College of Law Houston’s student-edited journals – the South Texas College of Law Houston Law Review, Currents: International Trade Law Journal, Corporate Counsel Review, or Texas Journal of Business Law.
Upper Level Courses
Students can enhance their research and writing skills by enrolling in a variety of elective courses, which are scheduled during the regular semesters or the intersessions between semesters. Many of the skills courses include a significant research and/or writing component. A few of these include Internet Legal Research, Appellate Advocacy (drafting appellate briefs), Civil Pretrial Advocacy (drafting pleadings), and the Transaction Skills courses (drafting contracts, loan agreements, conveyances, and other documents).
Students whose fundamental writing skills require improvement are encouraged to consult the school’s writing specialist, Professor Lisa Tilton McCarthy . After assessing the student’s writing, McCarthy works individually with the student to address specific areas of concern, such as word choice, sentence and paragraph structure, and the organization of ideas.