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Prather, Catherine
Assistant Director of Finance and Administration

WCL,Washington College of Law 4400 Massachusetts Avenue NW Washington, DC 20016-2132 United States

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Welcome to WCL’s Legal Rhetoric Program!  

The Legal Rhetoric Program delivers courses in Legal Research & Writing I and II, offers one-on-one writing support for first-year law students, and delivers workshops for students building their analysis and advocacy skills. The Legal Rhetoric Program is the largest program at AUWCL and is widely recognized for its commitment to excellence in teaching students the fundamentals of lawyering skills.   

The Legal Research & Writing courses are delivered to all first-year students over the Fall and Spring semesters. These courses introduce students to principles of legal research, writing, analysis, and citation, as well as written and oral advocacy. Utilizing smaller class sizes, students are immersed in a highly interactive learning environment that includes simulated client interviews, mock oral arguments, and facilitated group work.  

The Legal Rhetoric Program adopts the following approaches to its curriculum:  

  • Takes an approach that is both practical and sophisticated. Students learn how to draft documents clearly and to skillfully employ language to apply and shape the law. 

  • Uses teaching methods that simulate the actual work that lawyers do. Courses are delivered in a “simulation-style” whereby students prepare documents, such as office memoranda, a trial brief, and an appellate brief.  By representing different “clients” and writing documents in different settings, students learn how to adjust writing strategies as their audience and purpose change.   

  • Emphasizes writing as a process. Students prepare multiple drafts of documents, and through individual teacher-student consultations, small group classroom workshops, and peer review, students receive feedback on their drafts, developing their skills as the course proceeds 

  • Applies state-of-the-art technology. In WCL's "smart classrooms," students use interactive electronic equipment to see, discuss, and evaluate the impact of revisions on documents as changes are made. 

  • Works with other first year courses and student services to reinforce student learning and student supports. The Legal Rhetoric Program works carefully with other WCL programs, such as the Office of Academic Excellence, the Office of Career and Professional Development, and the Dean of Students to deliver content that prepares students for successful careers, aligns with more holistic academic expectations, and promotes student wellness.  

  • Has a low student-to-faculty ratio to facilitate individualized student support. Small classes make customized student-centered teaching techniques possible.  

  • Is taught by a diverse team of professors including full-time professors and adjunct professors who bring experience from a range of practice areas. Trained student "Dean's Fellows" provide support and help students improve their writing in one-on-one conferences, office hours, and Skills Labs. 

About the Program

The course is designed to teach students four things: (1) to select writing strategies that will produce effective (“good”) documents; (2) to write legal analysis and legal argument; (3) to write specific kinds of legal documents (office memos, client advice letters, briefs); and (4) to identify, find, analyze, and use legal authority.

“By recognizing and teaching legal writing as conversation, we can begin to re-vision what legal writing is and what it does.” 

Teresa Godwin Phelps 

“At its best, legal writing presents the reader with a finished product all tied up with a bow, rather than a listing of somewhat related facts, holdings, and legal principles.” 

Paul Figley  

“To ensure client satisfaction, lawyers must remember their primary audience and use language that the reader(s) can readily understand.” 

David Spratt