This article recommends developing assignments for first-year legal writing courses through collaborations with legal services organizations. The article stems from and describes such ongoing projects at Seattle University School of Law, where several hundred first-year law students have worked on such projects so far. We have partnered with lawyers at organizations like the National Employment Law Project, the ACLU of Washington, and Northwest Justice Project to come up with live issues that they would like to have researched, and they received the best student work product from each class. The partner organizations have used the students’ work in several ways, including bringing successful impact litigation, preparing amicus briefs, and lobbying for legislative changes. These projects have increased our students’ understanding of the importance of legal research and writing, have motivated our students to improve their work product, and have helped the students gain a different perspective than they often see within the first-year curriculum. The article contextualizes these projects within the traditional legal writing curriculum and the Carnegie Report’s recommendations that law schools join lawyering professionalism and legal analysis from the beginning of law school. The article also draws on research into student engagement, including the Law School Survey of Student Engagement. The article discusses the literature regarding somewhat similar collaboration between legal writing and clinical faculty within the law school; these projects are complementary, but they have fewer timing challenges, are less resource-intensive for the law school, and they provide an opportunity to connect the law school with lawyers from community partner organizations. Finally, the article offers some concrete practical solutions to potential challenges in implementing these projects, including making sure that core legal writing objectives are met through the projects and how to teach the projects effectively to first-year students.
Engaging First-Year Students through Pro Bono Collaborations in Legal Writing, 62 J. LEGAL EDUC. 586