Delivering A Critical Writing Edge: Legal Writing At Valparaiso Law

Legal writing program
From day one of year one, Valparaiso University Law School students are immersed in demanding writing requirements.
From day one of year one, Valparaiso University Law School students are immersed in demanding writing requirements. According to Distinguished Practitioner-in-Residence Clare Nuechterlein, writing skills are an integral part of a quality legal education—skills that date back to the dawn of law practice, but continue to be prized even in a rapidly evolving society. She says, “They’ve become innate across legal education in recent years. What’s old is new.” Professor Emeritus Bruce Berner’s fellow Valparaiso University Law Review pioneer Michael Swygert (‘67 J.D.) says, “That’s one of the things employers and lawyers look for is to what extent have you had any writing experience and editing experience while you were in law school.”

Affirming the importance of gaining writing experience during law school, Nuechterlein says, “We have writing requirements each year in law school, which is kind of unusual, but our students are very well prepared and that’s what employers are looking for. They don’t want to have to spend a lot of time training people up.” As is the case with all the co-curricular activities at Valparaiso University Law School, there is a significant writing and research requirement in Moot Court Society. Students in Moot Court Society write a 25-page brief in preparation for the annual intra-school Luther M. Swygert Memorial Moot Court Competition. Nuechterlein, who coaches students in moot court, says, “I’ve heard from lawyers over the years that they can’t believe a second-year law student wrote a brief of this magnitude.”

Katlyn Rowe (‘14 J.D.), who won the Swygert competition in her 2L year, says, “I still use my moot court brief as a writing sample and a cornerstone on how to build briefs today. I have it on file at my firm right now and I give it to student clerks to start building things off of.” Professor Berner furthers the notion that Valparaiso University Law School students have an advantage over their peers when it comes to possessing the writing acumen law firms covet.

We hear back from a lot of very good firms who hire our students about how prepared they are.

Berner tells of how a colleague of his at a firm in Chicago spoke highly of an intern from Valparaiso Law. As Berner relates the story, the firm had three summer interns: one from University of Michigan, one from Harvard, and one from Valparaiso Law. The Valparaiso Law intern, Berner says, according to his colleague, “out wrote the others, easily, every day.”

Swygert, a distinguished author and legal scholar, points to his time as editor of the Law Review as a formative experience as a writer. He says, “It taught me, first of all, about the joys of research and writing.”