Legal Research and Writing Program Overview

GW Law's Legal Research and Writing (LRW) Program consists of four major components that each engage a combination of part-time DC-area lawyers and students who have demonstrated excellence in their own research and writing skills. The program is overseen by Christy DeSanctis, the Director, and Jessica Clark, the Associate Director. Professors DeSanctis and Clark are members of the fulltime law school faculty. The administration of the program is enhanced with the addition of two new full-time faculty members, Iselin Gambert and Karen Thornton. Each of these professors brings a wealth of expertise and knowledge to the program, across diverse practice areas and with respect to their varied teaching interests.

First-Year Curriculum

The centerpiece of the Program is the first-year curriculum, a two-semester course that exposes students to both predictive and persuasive writing, and essential research skills. The fall semester, Legal Research and Writing, focuses on core analytical and organizational skills; the spring semester, Introduction to Advocacy, focuses on persuasive writing and oral advocacy. The spring semester is capped off with appellate oral arguments and optional participation in GW Law's most extensive student competition, the First-Year Moot Court Competition. Classes in the first year are taught in small groups of 10-12 students to maximize the level of attention and feedback that each professor can provide. Most of the sections are taught by an adjunct professor or a DC-area practitioner with hands-on experience in a myriad of diverse specializations. Current adjunct professors include members of various branches of the Department of Justice; lawyers with the Department of Defense, the Department of State, and numerous federal agencies; assistant United States Attorneys and public defenders; and associates and partners at many top area law firms of all sizes. The full-time members of the LRW Program also regularly teach classes in the first year.


Dean's Fellows

Each LRW professor is paired with a third-year GW Law student who serves as a teaching assistant and mentor. These students, called "Dean's Fellows," also teach their own classes each week focused on core research and citation skills. The Dean's Fellow Program is enhanced by participation from members of the Jacob Burns Law Library. The process for becoming a Dean's Fellow is competitive; applicants must demonstrate excellence in legal research and writing as well as the ability to lead a class. Many Dean's Fellows have prior teaching or tutoring experience, and many have gone on to join the adjunct professor ranks at GW Law after spending time in practice.


Writing Fellows and the Writing Center

The Writing Center is a central component of the Legal Research and Writing Program and is a unique offering among law schools. One of the purposes of the Writing Center is to supplement the individual instruction and feedback that our writing and other professors provide. Toward that end, the Writing Center offers one-on-one writing conferences, multi-person workshops, videos, tip sheets, and other resources to legal writers of any class year and ability. The Center is staffed by 40-45 Writing Fellows- upper-level law students with strong writing and analysis skills. Writing Fellows are trained to work with writers at any stage of the writing process, from brainstorming and outlining, to developing the structure of a legal analysis, to publishing a near-finished product. The goal of each writing conference is to help student writers become skilled and critical readers of their own writing.


Upper-Level Curriculum

In addition to the first-year course, the LRW Program consists of several upper-level offerings that enable students to continue to focus on essential writing skills.

Scholarly Writing Program
A unique offering at GW Law, the Scholarly Writing (SW) Program consists of a mosaic of formal and less formal group sessions keyed by subject matter to each of GW Law’s seven journals. All 2L students who participate in a journal are enrolled in a section of SW administered through the journal on which they participate. The year-long course consists of six classes that mark important stages in the note-writing process. These classes are taught by adjunct professors, most of whom are former editors of the journals that they serve as graduates in this new capacity. In addition, students meet four times, either in small groups of 6-8 or individually, with adjunct professors who run "works-in-progress" sessions to facilitate peer review and to provide one-on-one feedback on drafts. Each adjunct professor is paired with a 3L notes editor, who serves a valuable role as mentor and advisor to the 2Ls.

Students who are not on journals also now have the opportunity to participate in a similar endeavor while writing a seminar paper. The Upper Level Writing course is designed to put students on a structured writing schedule with milestones at which they receive feedback and counseling on interim written products, such as outlines and early drafts. Experience has shown that small group peer feedback not only informs the revising process, but motivates students to stay on schedule and produce their best work. The course also provides strategies for students who seek to publish their paper and/or compete in a writing competition.

LL.M. Thesis Program
This one-of-a-kind course is a co-requisite for all LL.M. candidates writing a thesis as part of their graduation requirements. Students meet four times a semester with a full-time faculty member in groups of no more than 20. The course serves as a writer’s workshop in the style of a Ph.D. dissertation class. Students receive instruction on strategies to further refine their research, outlining, and legal analysis skills, and are then encouraged to openly discuss their progress, struggles, and shared drafts with feedback. The course supplements the relationship students develop with their thesis advisor by providing discipline, moral support, and heightened expectations for success.

Legal Drafting
The final component of the LRW Program consists of a series of upper-level legal drafting courses. These courses, which provide students with specialized instruction in drafting litigation or transactional documents, are popular upper-level electives. Students can expect to learn fundamental skills necessary to the drafting process and will apply these skills to the preparation of pleadings and motions, contracts, wills, deeds, and other agreements.

Publishing Student Papers
The Faculty strongly encourages J.D. and LL.M students to seek publication of papers produced in upper level writing courses. We have therefore purchased an institutional ExpressO account that enables students to electronically submit their paper to any of nearly 800 journals and law reviews, free of charge. Student journal members who produce a note in fulfillment of their journal requirement, must allow their journal right of first refusal before seeking publication via ExpressO.

Publications available for submission by students are listed by title, category, or U.S. News & World Report ranking on the ExpressO web site.  Students may browse these listings to select the publications to which to send their paper(s) for consideration. All currently enrolled GW Law upper level J.D. and LL.M students are included in the GWLaw ExpressO Institutional Student Account under their law.gwu.edu email address. Enrollment will be effective until four months after the student earns a degree.

To access your student account, follow these steps:

1. Go to http://law.bepress.com/expresso and click "My Account." When prompted to log on, enter your email address and password. If this is the first time you are accessing your account, enter your law.gwu.edu email address, leave the password field blank and click "Login." You will then have the opportunity to enter a password to use for future access. Please note, you must use your law.gwu.edu e-mail address when using ExpressO.

2. When you are ready to submit your work, please visit the ExpressO home page (http://law.bepress.com/expresso) and click "Submit Now." We recommend you review ExpressO's video tutorials for authors for instructions on how to make your submission: http://law.bepress.com/expresso/tutorials.html

Please also feel free to visit the ExpressO FAQ Author page where many of your questions will be answered:  http://law.bepress.com/expresso/faq_authors.html

Note: The ExpressO Institutional Student account restricts submissions to a single subject area. This means that you may only select one category (no general allowed) per submission. However, there are no restrictions on the number of submissions.

If you have any questions or need any assistance with your submission, please feel free to reach out to the ExpressO support contact, Jennifer Todd, by phone at 510.665.1200 Ext. 2 or by email to support@law.bepress.com.

If you have questions about ExpressO’s privacy policy, please visit http://www.bepress.com/privacy.html. If you do not want your email address to be provided to ExpressO, and thereby opt out of the institutional student account, simply contact Professor Karen Thornton at kthornton@law.gwu.edu.


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