Transforming the Writing Program

he Georgia State University College of Law introduces this fall Lawyering: Foundations, an innovative first-year writing program that will emphasize more practice-based assignments and greater faculty feedback.

The program spans two semesters and will feature smaller sections and more assignments — legal memoranda, trial and appellate briefs, business emails, client letters, witness interviews, etc. — and more concrete feedback for each assignment. Students will receive six credit hours, up from the three credit hours earned under the old program.

The most significant difference is the move from big comprehensive assignments — two closed memos, one open memo and the appellate brief — to smaller assignments a young lawyer would do in an office setting, said Roy Sobelson, associate dean for academic affairs and legal writing task force member.

The new Lawyering: Foundations Program offers 30-student class sections with smaller workshops of 15 students for one-on-one feedback, said Margaret Hughes Vath, instructor of law.

“This personalized instruction is crucial for helping individual students improve legal analysis and writing skills,” said Heather Kern Slovensky, director of the writing program and task force member.

Changing the writing program to better reflect the practice of law took the commitment of the faculty, said Jennifer Chiovaro (J.D. ’85), instructor of law, former director of the writing program and taskforce member. The faculty compressed other first-year courses — Torts and Property — from six to four credit hours to allow for expansion of the writing program.

The college has focused on developing expertise in writing throughout the curriculum, said Wendy Hensel, associate dean for faculty development and research.

“Writing is fundamental to all courses,” she said. “Writing cannot be esoteric. It has to be concrete. Our students have to be professionals who have the skills necessary to execute the law.”

Another advantage to the new program is that students will have a writing portfolio that reflects the different assignments young attorneys do, Sobelson said.

“Now, there are greater expectations on our students to hit the ground running,” Slovensky said.  “This new program will only help our students meet those expectations.”

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