Legal Writing Institute

  (Redirected from The Legal Writing Institute)

The Legal Writing Institute (LWI) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving legal communication, building the discipline of legal writing, and improving the status of legal writing faculty across the country. The Institute currently has almost 3,000 members:  While the bulk of the members are law professors, some of the members are judges, attorneys, and undergraduate professors.[1]


Wanting to meet others who taught legal writing, in 1984 Professors Laurel Currie Oates and Chris Rideout used what was left of money from an NEH grant to host a conference titled “Teaching Legal Writing.”[2]  Although at that time it was difficult to identify those who were teaching legal writing,[3] 108 individuals from 56 different law school attended the conference.[4] As Professor Mary Lawrence has stated, “Those first conferences were extraordinary: intimate, exciting, heartwarming, and exhilarating. Whenever I think of them, I smile. We had a sense of pure joy in being with people who shared common goals and in learning from each other. Together we felt persuaded that legal writing held great promise; we were inspired to keep working in the field. From feeling isolated and unconnected to like-minded professionals, we created a sense of community—a community built on respect, trust, and genuine affection, free of self-promotion and competitiveness. We made friendships at those early conferences, friendships that continue decades later.”i[2]

Because the 1984 conference was so successful, at the AALS conference on Legal Writing held at Chicago-Kent in 1985, 15 individuals from 14 law school decided to establish what is now the Legal Writing Institute[5]. The following year, the Institute was incorporated as a non-profit organization with its home at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington.[2]


Since 1984, the Institute has sponsored biennial conferences, the most recent ones attracting  more than 500 participants.[6] While originally the conferences were held at the University of Puget Sound or its successor, Seattle University, the conferences now rotate among different regions of the county and are held at different law schools or conference sites.[2]  The next conference will be held at Georgetown University Law Center in July 2020.[6]  

The Institute also hosts one-day conferences every December and, since 2007, the Institute has co-hosted the Applied Legal Storytelling conference, which is held in years in which there is no biennial conference. These conferences have as their focus applied narrative theory and storytelling on behalf of clients[6]

The Second DraftEdit

Because there was no email or listservs, in 1986 the Institute started a newsletter, The Second Draft,[7] which Professor Laurel Currie Oates edited.  The Second Draft, which started as a collection of photocopied articles and announcements, is now an online publication sent by email to all Institute members twice a year.[8]

Each issue of The Second Draft collects essays related to a central theme. Past themes have included methodologies for teaching analysis in the classroom, different approaches to commenting on students' writing, and incorporating technology into the legal writing and research classroom.[8]


During the 1994 Legal Writing conference, Professor Ralph Brill of Chicago-Ken established a listserv so that those attending the conference could share ideas more easily.[8] Today, the listserv is open to all persons interested in the teaching of Legal Writing and is an extremely active listserv.  The listserv address is

Legal Writing, the Journal of the Legal Writing InstituteEdit

In 1998, the Institute established a journal to showcase the developing discipline of legal writing.[9] The Journal’s mission is to provide a forum for the publication of scholarly articles about the theory, substance, and pedagogy of legal writing. Unlike most law reviews, which are student-edited, the Journal is peer-reviewed.[10] The editorial board is composed of faculty from law schools across the country and includes some of the leading scholars and academics in the field of legal writing. Although originally called the Journal of the Legal Writing Institute, the Journal is now called Legal Writing, the Journal of the Legal Writing Institute.


Under the leadership of Professor Jill Ramsfield, in 1990 the Institute developed and sent out the first survey collecting information about Legal Writing programs and staffing.[2] The survey continues to evolve and the information that has been collected has provided institutions with invaluable information about how legal writing is taught at various institutions and about the status of those who teach legal writing.


In 2015, the Institute established the Professional Status Committee and charged it with the task of  gathering information about status issues; acting as a resource for Institute members, and assisting Board in addressing status issues and their effect on its members.

In 2015, LWI adopted the following statement:

    No justification exists for subordinating one group of law faculty to another based on the nature of  the course, the subject matter, or the teaching method.   All full-time law faculty should have the opportunity to achieve full citizenship at their institutions, including academic freedom, security of position, and governance rights. Those rights are necessary to ensure that law students and the legal profession benefit from the myriad perspectives and expertise that all faculty bring to the mission of legal education.[11]

Both the Association of Legal Writing Directors (ALWD) and the Society of American Law Teachers (SALT) have also adopted this statement.


  1. ^ "LWI Online".
  2. ^ a b c d e Lawrence, Mary S. (2005). "Legal Writing Institute Beginning: Extraordinary Vision, Extraordinary Accomplishment Based on Interviews with Laurel Currie Oates and J. Christopher Rideout, and Documents from the Archives of the Legl Writing Institute". J. Legal Writing Inst. 11: 213.
  3. ^ Lawrence, Mary S (2005). "Legal Writing Institute Beginning: Extraordinary Vision, Extraordinary Accomplishment". J.L.W.I. 11: 216.
  4. ^ Lawrence, Mary S (2005). "Legal Writing Institute Beginning: Extraordinary Vision, Extraordinary Accomplishment". J.L.W.I. 11: 236.
  5. ^ The first meeting of the Legal Writing Institute was held on Saturday, March 23, 1985, in Chicago. Fifteen persons were selected to be members of the first Board of Directors of the Legal Writing Institute at that first meeting:14 James Bond, Wake Forest University School of Law;  Susan Brody, John Marshall School of Law; Lynne Capehart, University of Florida College of Law; Daisy Floyd, University of Georgia School of Law; Ellen Mosen James, City University of New York Law School at Queens;  Noel Lyon, Queens University Faculty of Law; Christine Metteer, Southwestern University School of Law;  Michele Minnis, University of New Mexico School of Law; Laurel Currie Oates, University of Puget Sound School of Law; Teresa Phelps, Notre Dame Law School; Chris Rideout, University of Puget Sound School of Law;  Renee Hausman Shea, Law School Admissions Council; Chris Simoni, Willamette University College of Law;  Jim Stratman, Carnegie-Mellon University; Christine Woolever, Northeastern University School of Law.
  6. ^ a b c "LWI Online (conferences)".
  7. ^ The name, The Second Draft, was suggested by J. Denny Haythorn, Director of the Law Library and Professor of Law at Whittier College School of Law. In suggesting the name, Professor Haythorn wrote that the name “indicates a draft of our work, not the first or the last, but merely our progress toward our goal....” Members agreed with Professor Haythorn, and, because they thought the name reflected what it wanted this newsletter to be, a place where members could share work in progress, they adopted his suggestion.
  8. ^ a b c "LWI Online (second-draft)".
  9. ^ "LWI Publications".
  10. ^ Gerdy, Kristin B (2018). "A Symposium Issue That Begs Revising". Legal Writing: J Legal Writing Inst. 22: 23.
  11. ^ "LWI Advocacy".