My legal writing class is working on their second trial brief. I created the visual example, below, to help them “see” the motion for summary judgment structure.
We began the semester with a Motion/Response to Dismiss. The class was divided into 6 “mini-law firms,” and for the motion to dismiss, they wrote together and argued as a team. For the Motion for Summary Judgment, on the same problem, they switched sides of the case, and the teams were scrambled. However, for this project, they are researching and writing independently and only arguing as a team.
The students have offered positive feedback about the project. They’ve had the opportunity to develop collaborative work skills with two different teams, and they will have had two opportunities to practice oral advocacy before the final appellate argument (we will also have two practice sessions closer to the appellate arguments). I had them use Google Docs for the first trial brief, and I tracked their individual contributions and comments. For the summary judgment brief, I gave them the option of Google Docs or Microsoft Office 365 (we are fortunate that students have a free Office 365 account at IU). So in addition to the collaborative skills, the students are also gaining new tech skills. I’ve eased them into persuasive writing and removed supports along the way until, eventually, the appellate brief and argument will be entirely independent and a new problem.
To help the shift from motion to dismiss to summary judgment, I offered this visualization:Trial-Brief-Visualization-MSJ