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Savannah Law Review


In legal education, the word “doctrinal” is most often used to refer to courses such as Contracts, Torts, Property, and Criminal Procedure. Doctrinal has long been used as a descriptive adjective, but also as a word of exclusion. We often hear that legal writing courses are not substantive and not as significant as doctrinal courses. Linda Edwards’s new book, Readings in Persuasion: Briefs that Changed the World, persuasively challenges this view.

This paper evaluates what we mean when we use the term doctrinal in a legal education context and considers six powerful descriptors for the doctrine of legal writing, all extrapolated from Edwards’s book: (1) legal writing is founded upon a collective body of robust scholarship; (2) it relies upon principles of science to create legal meaning; (3) it embraces an artistic craft model for the production of legal meanings, emphasizing the creativity, autonomy, and discretion that form the core of a lawyer’s professional identity; (4) it involves critical introspection, opening up areas of thought traditionally obscured in legal education and ensuring that law students appreciate the power they will eventually wield in law practice; (5) it is substantive because legal writing is law making - we cannot separate the substance of the law from the words we use to forge legal meanings; and finally, (6) because it relies on real cases and context to teach students how to engage with the legal process, the doctrine of legal writing builds and improves upon law school’s classic case-method pedagogy.

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