Document Type

Technical Report

Publication Date



This report examines legal writing as it is represented in legal memoranda prepared by first-semester law students in twelve different law schools. It is based on the cumulative judgments of the instructors and professors of law in those institutions, humanities specialists at Educational Testing Service, and two legal consultants. A taxonomy of the elements of the legal memorandum was developed from annotations and written and tape-recorded commentaries on 237 legal memoranda written by the law students. Ratings of the overall quality and of the importance of specific elements of the legal memoranda were conducted on multiple occasions by different judges. Statistical analyses of the rating data revealed some disagreement among legal writing instructors with respect to the overall quality of the legal memoranda and with respect to the elements of them that were either strong or weak. Despite these disagreements, it was possible to determine in the aggregate what elements of the legal memoranda were most important and what relative weight each has in the judgments of the instructors and professors. It was also possible to identify combinations of elements that formed factors important in determining the quality of legal memoranda. Computer analyses of the memoranda indicated differences between the student memoranda and other kinds of writing, particularly with respect to the greater use of passive voice and nominalizations in the student memoranda, but the computer variables did not correlate significantly with global quality ratings of the memoranda. Although no significant sex differences were found in the global quality ratings, differences favoring females were observed for several taxonomy elements.

Publication Title

LSAC Research Report Series


Writing Analysis, Legal Writing, First Year Law

Included in

Law Commons



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