Law 540 - Advanced Legal Writing

Ryan McCarl

Ryan McCarl

PULSE Fellow in Artificial Intelligence, Law, and Policy
B.A. University of Chicago, 2008
M.A. University of Chicago, 2008
M.A. University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, 2010
J.D. University of Chicago Law School, 2014
Course Description:

Writing is a lawyer’s most important skill, and building that skill is a lifelong process. This course will teach you techniques used by the world’s best legal writers. You will learn to choose the right words, organize your thoughts, and convey your arguments as precisely and succinctly as possible. To that end, we will study modern style guides, improve flawed examples from court filings, and compose a variety of legal documents. The course will provide extensive feedback that will help you grow as a writer regardless of your current skills.


Course Learning Outcomes:

At the end of this course, you should be able to:

  • Write and edit in a productive, structured way.
  • Recognize and eliminate needless words, bloated phrases, and jargon.
  • Design typographically sound documents.
  • Use impeccable grammar, punctuation, and citation formatting.
  • Write powerful, concise, active sentences.
  • Organize your documents to make them as clear and readable as possible.
  • Write fact sections in which you tell a compelling story.
  • Research efficiently.
  • Construct sound legal arguments.
  • Use precedent effectively.
  • Draft understandable contracts.
  • Draft persuasive briefs, motions, and pleadings.

Course Information:
​Faculty Term Course Section ​Schedule ​Units Requisite Satisfies SAW
Ryan McCarl 20F 540 SEM 1 R 5:30 PM - 7:30 PM 3.0 No Yes
Ryan McCarl 20F 540 SEM 2 R 5:30 PM - 7:30 PM 3.0 No Yes
Textbook Information:
Textbook for Fall 2020 SEM 1
Armstrong and Terrell. Thinking Like a Writer: A Lawyer's Guide to Effective Writing and Editing  3rd ed.  
ISBN: 9781402411281. Practising Law Institute. REQUIRED $59.06
Garner, Bryan A. Legal Writing in Plain English: a Text with Exercises  2nd ed.  
ISBN: 9780226283937. University of Chicago Press. REQUIRED $18.96
Garner, Bryan A. The Elements of Legal Style  2nd ed.  
ISBN: 9780195141627. Oxford University Press. REQUIRED $30.06
Garner, Bryan A. The Redbook: A Manual on Legal Style  4th ed.  
ISBN: 9781642421002. West Academic Publishing. REQUIRED $58.06
Guberman, Ross. Point Made: How to Write Like the Nation's Top Advocates  2nd ed.  
ISBN: 9780199943852. Oxford University Press. REQUIRED $25.96
Stark, Steven D. Writing to Win: The Legal Writer  1st rev. ed.  
ISBN: 9780307888716. Three Rivers Press. REQUIRED $15.06
Lester, Mark. McGraw-Hill Education Handbook of English Grammar & Usage  3rd ed.  
ISBN: 9781260121674. McGraw-Hill Education. OPTIONAL $16.56