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Lecture discusses legal education

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Assistant Professor of Law Teri McMurtry-Chubb talks about her new book, “Legal Writing in the Disciplines: A guide to Legal Writing Mastery” in her faculty lecture. She discussed the problems encountered by faculty in the teaching of writing, including the limited opportunities to work with students to understand what they’ve learned about writing. / photo by Cameron Barr

Veronica Sepulveda
Staff Writer

Teri McMurtry-Chubb, associate professor of law, gave her lecture, “Toward a Disciplinary Pedagogy for Legal Education” on Monday at the Faculty Lecture Series.

The lecture included a talk about her new book on legal writing in the disciplines.

Continuing on to law school may be difficult for many students depending on their academic background.

McMurtry-Chubb said teachers of legal studies are not doing a good job of properly helping students transition from college to law school.

In describing the way he teaches his class, Kevin Marshall, law professor, said that he makes it clear to his students that analysis and comprehension are key to understanding the law.

“If you cannot communicate the concept, you will not be able to score well on the test,” Marshall said.

McMurtry-Chubb said there are many different ways of thinking about legal education and looking at the law. She said it is better to recognize law and be able to explain it.

“Law school is one of the only graduate or professional programs of study that does not meet students at the point of their last significant educational experience,” McMurtry-Chubb said.

McMurtry-Chubb wanted to create a disciplinary curriculum where her students can focus on the different areas of discipline and understand them better.

“If we fail to continue to root legal study in its disciplinary context and link it to students’ previous disciplinary knowledge, then we are going to continue to get lawyers that really don’t understand the law as deeply as they can,” she said.

McMurtry-Chubb said in order to help make the connections, students need to understand discipline rhetoric.

There are five cannons of rhetoric: Inventio, dispositio, elocutio, memoria, and pronunciatio.

These disciplines teach that reading, note-taking and organization strategies, building and utilizing analytical framework and communication analysis are the characteristics for all discourse communities.

McMurtry-Chubb said it is not enough to teach students how to identify and build or utilize analytical framework.

She said it is necessary to teach students how to communicate their analysis in an appropriate way for their discipline.

She said students are spending most of their time trying to figure out what the law is, instead of actually learning it.

McMurtry-Chubb said there are two school of thoughts: One where students write to learn and understand, and discover what they do not know. The other is writing for evaluation, where students are tested on what they do not know.

Teaching the students to be able to evaluate the law will help them in evaluating the type of clients they will have, McMurtry-Chubb said.

In other words, understanding the laws will help them narrow down their practice to accept a specific type of cases.

Al Clark, associate vice president for academic affairs said he found the lecture to be helpful.

”She presented the topic in a very useful and intelligent way,” Clark said.

McMurtry-Chubb’s first book, “Legal Writing in the Discipline: A Guide to Legal Writing Mastery,” is set to be released this month.

In the book, she teaches students how to understand the law and write in a formulated way.

“This book attempts to meet students at their last significant educational experience and it seems to translate what they learned and turn into the language of the law,” McMurtry-Chubb said.

The book is split into six chapters. The first chapter covers legal writing concepts, and the remaining deal with each of the major disciplinary focuses.

“Writing is the centerpiece of everyone’s education,” McMurtry-Chubb said.

Veronica Sepulveda can be reached at

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