Moritz 3Ls Serve As Legal Writing Fellows
Students from all over the globe come to Moritz College of Law’s Master of Laws (LL.M.) program with the goal of deepening their knowledge of U.S. Law and legal systems and advancing their careers. One key component of Moritz’s one-year LL.M. program is legal writing.
In the fall semester, all LL.M. students take LL.M. Legal Writing, a course designed to give international students a strong foundation in U.S. legal writing. LL.M. students at Moritz receive a highly interactive and rigorous introduction to the communication of legal analysis in the U.S., including preparation of professional emails and office memoranda and simulated meetings with law firm partners.
This year, Moritz pioneered a new model: Professor Katrina Lee, a former law firm partner and litigator and an experienced legal writing professor, became Moritz’s first-ever director of the LL.M. legal writing program and assumed the responsibility of teaching all sections of LL.M. legal writing, with support from the first-ever Moritz legal writing fellows. The legal writing fellows this year consist of five 3L students: Susan Kim, Delaney Marsco, Meghna Rao, Emily Rotella, and Avery Schumacher.
Selected through a competitive application process, the fellows “have all demonstrated excellence in legal writing and have expressed enthusiastic interest in working with our LLM students,” according to Lee. She added, “The legal writing fellowship program is a terrific way for our 3L students to be involved in our LLM program at Moritz. We want our LL.M. students to feel as welcome and be as integrated as possible into academic life at Moritz, and this is one way to help accomplish that goal.”
The fellows serve as resources, holding regular office hours and making themselves accessible to LL.M. students for legal writing guidance throughout the semester. Now several weeks into the program, the fellows have described it as a mutually beneficial experience.
Susan Kim ’15, of Rockville, MD, first learned about the L.L.M. legal writing fellowship opportunity while a student in Professor Lee’s Legal Negotiations class last year, and was immediately interested. .
“I am a first generation Korean-American, so I grew up in a community of non-native English speakers,” she said. “I felt like I could really understand and relate to those who might be struggling to adapt and learn in a new country.”
Kim is a 2010 graduate of Yale University, where she earned her B.A. in political science and in international studies. While at Moritz, she has externed for Judge Michael H. Watson in the United States District Court, Southern District of Ohio, as well as the National Football League’s Management Council, and the Columbus law firm of Bailey Cavalieri, LLC.
Working with the LL.M. students, she said, has been “fantastic,” and described the process of getting to know about each of their backgrounds in their home countries as “eye-opening.”
“As fellows, we get a level of interaction with the LL.M. students that I don’t think you ever could in a traditional classroom setting as classmates,” Kim explained.
“As practicing attorneys, our jobs will be to explain legal concepts and legal reasoning often through writing. It is the single most important skill we will learn in law school. This is something we have tried to emphasize to the LL.M. students in the program.”
Delaney Marsco ’15, of Boardman, OH, agreed. “Legal writing is the talisman of a good lawyer,” she said. “Lawyers who emerge from [Moritz’s LL.M. legal writing program] will be effective at researching legal issues and informing the reader of the law. These skills build a vital foundation for brilliant lawyers.”
Marsco graduated from the University of Buffalo, the State University of New York, in 2012 with a B.A. in English, and, while an undergrad, she served as a writing tutor and secretary for the University at Buffalo English club. She is currently editor of the Ohio State Journal on Dispute Resolution’s Mayhew-Hite Report, and spent the summer of 2013 studying in Oxford, England.
“I truly enjoyed tutoring ESL students as an undergrad. The ability to pursue the passion I had for tutoring at this higher level was an opportunity I was unwilling to pass up,” she said of her legal writing fellowship.
“As a fellow, I have the opportunity not only to help the LL.M. students, but also to learn from them. I already feel like what little help I’ve provided has made a difference, and I am optimistic that as the semester continues, my role will become more valuable.”
Mehgna Rao ’15, of Twinsburg, OH, said she applied to become a fellow because she “wanted to use the extra time I have as a 3L to do something rewarding for others.” Already, she has found the role of mentor useful for brushing up on her own legal writing skills, and said she hopes to learn about the different legal systems around the world as she gets to know the LL.M. students.
Rao received a B.A. in English, French, and international relations from Ohio State in 2011 and serves as chief managing editor of the Amici Criminal Law Practitioners’ Commentary for the Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law.
“Writing is the primary way lawyers practice law, whether writing an email to a partner or drafting a motion for summary judgment to a judge,” she said. “The more comfortable we all are with legal writing, the less scary transitioning to the real legal world will be.”
As an undergraduate at Ohio State majoring in international studies and Spanish, Emily Rotella ’15, of Loveland, OH, had the opportunity to spend a semester studying at the Universidad de Belgrano in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
“My experience learning to write in a completely different style and language there made me want to help LL.M. students navigate the potentially unfamiliar contours of legal writing here at Moritz,” the 2012 OSU alumna said.
“This semester I hope to not only strengthen my own legal writing skills, but also to learn how to teach others from Professor Lee, who has an unparalleled passion for teaching and legal writing.”
After reading about the fellowship program on Moritz’s job database, Symplicity, Avery Schumacher ’15, from Brecksville, OH, was certain it would be a good fit.
Schumacher, who earned a B.A. in communications from Ohio State in 2011, cited legal writing as one of her favorite classes at Moritz.
“I wanted to share my experiences and knowledge and take the opportunity to learn more, and improve myself, through the program,” she said, adding that so far, the experience of being a legal writing fellow has been “fun and rewarding.”
“As I expected,” she added, “the LL.M. students are enthusiastic and willing to learn and engage, so they have made the program very enjoyable.”
Her ultimate goal, she said, is to “gain experience in explaining difficult legal writing concepts, and grow as a writer myself through teaching others, because it forces me to look into different aspects of legal writing that have just become part of the process for me.”
Feedback from LL.M. legal writing students so far has been glowing.
“The program is awesome,” said student Javier Arias, LL.M. ’15, from Bogota, Colombia. “After taking the course, I will never write a legal email or memo any way other than how I learned at Moritz – even if it is in my own language.”
EunYoung Jang, LL.M. ’15, from Seoul, Korea, said the fellows have given her detailed comments and feedback on her writing, and served as a useful resource as she adjusts to American legal writing styles.
“I realized that the best way to acquire legal writing skills is to practice,” she said. “The U.S. legal writing class – and the fellows – have helped me learn how to better organize, analyze, and structure my writing.”