This Article will explore the issues that arise as more and more law schools face important definitional questions: To what extent should first year programs focus on providing in-depth research and writing training? To what extent should those programs adopt a more holistic curriculum that exposes students to a range of skills beyond research and writing?
The Article will begin with a description of what is actually done in first year programs at American law schools. This information was gathered in a Spring 1995 survey of law school research and writing programs, to which representatives of 111 schools responded. It will then address why these definitional questions are so significant. Following that, the Article will provide an analytic sketch of two composite skills courses, beginning with a discussion of a "traditional" legal research and writing program and an evaluation of its strengths and drawbacks. The Article then explores the broader-based skills approach, with special attention to the types of skills covered, and the strengths and weaknesses of this philosophy of first year training. The article will then propose a compromise plan that attempts, realistically, to incorporate the strengths of both these approaches. Hopefully, this will provide guidance to law schools in reexamining the core identity of their first year skills programs. The Article concludes by positing that these two approaches are not mutually exclusive; it is possible and, indeed, preferable, for schools to design courses that give their students the best of both worlds.
Legal Skills Training in the First Year of Law School: Research? Writing? Analysis? Or More?, 100 DICK. L. REV. 245 (1996).