Readers’ Expectations, Discourse Communities, and Effective Bar Exam Answers

Denise Riebe, Readers’ Expectations, Discourse Communities, and Effective Bar Exam Answers, 41 Gonz. L. Rev. 481 (2006).

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“The discourse of law thrives on the written word …” From the first day of law students’ training, they learn to speak and write in a new language unique to the legal profession. In addition to papers and essay exams, law students learn to write legal documents such as office memoranda, motion memoranda, and appellate briefs.

After investing thousands of dollars and years of time in law school, graduates face their final hurdle for becoming licensed: the bar exam. Graduates must write effective essay and performance answers to pass their bar exams and obtain their law licenses.

Once licensed, attorneys spend their entire careers writing documents like client letters, inner-office memoranda, contracts, wills, motion memoranda, and appellate briefs. Indeed, lawyers are professional writers: “Most lawyers write and publish more pages than most novelists, and with greater consequences hanging in the balance.” Thus, to be an effective lawyer, one must be an effective writer.

This article focuses on effective writing for one of the most stressful writing tasks that new law graduates must complete: bar exam answers. Although students who are accepted into and graduate from law school are usually “good” writers, to perform well on bar exams it is necessary for students to understand the types of questions asked and to adapt their writing for their readers – bar exam graders…. Read More

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