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Legal Research and Writing Program

The Duquesne University School of Law provides students with a state-of-the-art, nationally-recognized Legal Research and Writing Program.

First-Year Program

The first-year program consists of two required courses, for a total of five fully-graded credit hours, more than most other law schools. We begin the first year with several days of intensive work before the other first-year courses begin, in which students receive intensive instruction about the legal system, the appellate process, reading cases, and legal research. The two first-year courses teach students how to conduct legal research using print-based and computer-based resources arising in any context involving state or federal law.

We have very small class sizes with exceptionally low student:faculty ratios and our faculty provide students with extensive critiques of their work, using computer-based feedback techniques. We hold a series of required individual conferences between each student and the professor, and require submissions of revisions following the professor's written and oral feedback (for further review). There are three open-ended research memoranda assigned in the fall semester, of greater length and complexity than most other schools' programs; in the spring semester students prepare a complex and lengthy appellate brief and deliver an oral argument before panels of alumni and faculty.

In addition to our full-time tenured director and three tenure-track writing professors, our program also employs several practicing attorneys as adjunct professors. We also use upper-level teaching assistants and a writing specialist to supplement faculty instruction. All assignments are prepared by the tenured or tenure-track writing professors.

Upper-Level Writing Experiences

In addition to other faculty-supervised writing courses and student publication opportunities, there are several advanced legal writing courses taught by faculty in the Legal Research and Writing Program, addressing writing for law practice, legislative drafting, and law and literature.

The foundation established in the first-year courses has led to many successes in external moot court competitions and to students winning several national prizes for their writing.

Upper-level students have the opportunity explore legislative drafting, focusing on statutes and statutory drafting, through an innovative Legal Research and Writing course. Final projects involve solving a legal or quasi-legal problem by drafting a report and a statute, ordinance, regulation, procedural rule, or a similar solution. 

The Legal Writing Center

The home of the Legal Research and Writing Program is the Bridget and Alfred Peláez Legal Writing Center, which was built in 2009 and funded by a generous gift from a law school alumnus who wanted to enhance the instruction provided to Duquesne Law students.