Providing feedback to written work is one of the most important and challenging aspects of teaching legal writing. Legal writing professors spend a great deal of time and energy critiquing and grading student work. However, few legal writing professionals begin teaching with any formal training on providing feedback to novice legal writers. Fortunately, giving useful comments on student writing is a skill that can be learned. To begin, teachers must learn to prioritize feedback on the most important analytical problems on draft assignments. Focusing on analytical deficiencies helps students understand that substantive problems must be corrected before writing and stylistic problems can be effectively addressed. The best way to become proficient at prioritizing feedback is to understand the theory of analytical critique and consider a variety of critiquing methods. This article explores the theory of analytical critique and provides concrete suggestions on how to put the theory into practice when giving feedback on student writing. After discussing the theory and methodology of analytical critique, the article provides a hand-on, workshop-type experience. The article includes a complete student assignment to illustrate the techniques necessary to comment on analytical problems in novice legal writing. The assignment includes client facts, the relevant authority and a student draft memorandum analyzing the legal issues. The article closes with a thorough explanation of sample feedback to the draft memorandum to illustrate the theoretical ideas and critiquing methods discussed in the article.
Daniel Barnett. "Triage in the Trenches of the Legal Writing Course: The Theory and Methodology of Analytical Critique." University of Toledo Law Review 38, (2006): 651-704.