PS 3530 Legal Writing and Research        Spring Term 2014

Sec. 001 - MW 2:20-3:45 PH 205   -----   Sec. 02. TR 2:40-4:05 PH 205 

Syllabus  (This syllabus is subject to change during the semester depending on the direction of the class or in case of exigencies. Changes will be announced in class.)                                                          

Instructor: Clyde E. Willis, J.D., Ph.D. Office 255 Peck Hall, Telephone: 615-898-5457; e-mail; Web address:

Office Hours: MW 12:00-2:00; TR 11:05-12:00; and by appointment.          For Current Instructions and Information See Current Instructions Below

Course Objectives: Legal Writing and Research, a three-credit hour course, is a specialized composition course for university students planning to attend law school and paralegal students planning to work in a legal environment.  The course is composed of practice in legal research and writing in a variety of legal situations.  Your goal in this course is to learn how to organize a factual situation into a research project, conduct research and convey legal analyses in written form for different procedural situations.  The course consists of two components: research and writing.  The course will emphasize both components and you must show an acceptable level of competence in each component to complete the course successfully.

Required Readings: (1)  The  course FactPack available through the class web page by clicking on The FactPack Page [and the case exhibits], (2) material explaining and illustrating proper legal citations  that can be found at:   (3) articles assigned during the term that are available on the web and/or at the Walker Library, and (4)  My Lecture Notes.

Course Requirements: I will provide assignments as the course progresses in a way that will reflect as much as possible the class’s level of achievement.  Due dates and times for the research and writing assignments are strict.  Barring a genuine emergency such as significant, verifiable illness or a death in the family, assignments submitted late will incur a late penalty of 10% immediately and 30% per day after that.  Be certain to back up or maintain a file copy of all work submitted.  A computer crash will not be an acceptable excuse for work submitted untimely or not at all. Excessive absences will affect your grade.

Collaboration Rule: Only when otherwise instructed, you may work together on legal research and writing exercises.  Nonetheless, simply copying another’s work will incur appropriate penalties.

Course Activities: We will meet classes in the classroom. The fact package will be the basis for most writing and research exercises that may include a pre-trial memorandum, a memorandum of law at trial, an appellate brief along with other pleadings.  Non-research class periods will be primarily concerned with lectures, class discussion and oral presentations of your work.

Following is a tentative allocation of points for the course work:

Research and Writing Projects        - 30%
Opening Statement                        - 30%
Appellate Brief & Oral Argument   - 40 %

Work submitted will be graded on the basis to which it:   (1).  Takes a position and articulates a reasoned, analytically-supported argument;  (2).  Organizes facts and identifies all significant legal issues:  (3).  Is free of grammatical, spelling, syntax and typing errors;  (4). Is based on competent and thorough research;  (5).  Complies with correct citation formats;  (6).  Logically relates the applicable law to the facts; and  (7). Makes as reasoned and persuasive argument.  You must keep abreast of all assignments and modification of this syllabus.  To do so, you should maintain daily contact with your MTSU e-mail address and this web page.

Grade Distribution: I will distribute grades on the cumulative points according to the following percentages:

B+ = 88-90
B = 84-87
B- = 81-83

C+ = 78-80
C = 74-77
C- = 71-73

D+ = 68-70
D = 64-67
D- = 61-63
F = ≤ 60

Attendance Policy: Class attendance and participation are extremely important in this class, thus it is mandatory.  I WILL lower your grade for absences and lack of participation during class. 

Writing Requirement: You have reached a level of education that requires that you be judged by how effectively you communicate in writing as well as by what and how much you know.  Just as a major requirement for success in the legal system is an ability to write well, it will be a major concern in this course.  Accordingly, it may be necessary for students who have writing skills need special assistance to complete several sessions with the Writing Center to fulfill the course requirements.  This requirement is especially important for this course.

Caveats: (1) You are responsible for keeping up with assignments and modifications of this syllabus. (2) I expect you to attend class regularly. However, recognizing the inevitable, you should associate with a classmate so you can obtain notes and information in case of an absence. I will not review class sessions with students that were absent. (3) I will penalize you for excessive absences.  You must realize and constantly bear in mind that much of the submissions you make must include class lectures and discussion which contain material that cannot be found elsewhere. There is a direct correlation between the level of grades and attendance. You may expect to be called upon to answer questions and make suggestions regarding the assigned material. (4) You must submit assigned work when due and only to me personally. Unless we make specific provisions, I will not accept submissions by electronic mail or "under the door." (5) Work submitted late will be accepted with a late penalty of five points for each day of tardiness.  (6) If you miss a required exercise with prior approval, I will permit you to take a make-up examination on the last day of the term before or after class. (7) If you need to contact me, you must try to contact me first in person at my office, and if you are unable to meet me personally, you must attempt to reach me by telephone, and only afterward by e-mail or facsimile. Do not assume that I will receive or have received a telephonic or electronic message unless I respond in kind. I will not respond to e-mails that do not identify the sender and the subject matter. (8) It is your responsibility to see that all work is submitted. I will not "run you down" to let you know that a required submission is missing.

Accommodations: If you have a disability that may require assistance or accommodation, or you have questions related to any accommodation for testing, or the need for note takers, readers, et cetera, please speak with me when possible.  You may also contact the Office of Disabled Student Services at 898-2783 with any questions about such services.

Lottery Scholarship:  Do you have a lottery scholarship? To retain Tennessee Education Lottery Scholarship eligibility, you must earn a cumulative TELS GPA of 2.75 after 24 and 48 attempted hours and a cumulative TELS GPA of 3.0 thereafter. You may qualify with a 2.75 cumulative GPA after 72 attempted hours (and subsequent semesters), if you are enrolled full-time and maintain a semester GPA of at least 3.0. A grade of C, D, F, or I in this class may negatively impact TELS eligibility. Dropping a class after 14 days may also impact eligibility; if you withdraw from this class and it results in an enrollment status of less than full time, you may lose eligibility for your lottery scholarship. Lottery recipients are eligible to receive the scholarship for a maximum of five years from the date of initial enrollment, or until a bachelor degree is earned; students who first received the lottery scholarship in Fall 2009 or later will additionally be limited to 120 TELS attempted hours. For additional Lottery rules, please refer to your Lottery Statement of Understanding form via RaiderNet, review lottery requirements on the web at, or contact the Financial Aid Office at 898-2830.

Current Instructions: 

Click here for Source of Law Chart


Click here for Periodic Exercises


Click here for 3530 TOC/A Essay Worksheet


Click here for 3530 TOC/A Instructions


For a discussion of Opening Statements see that topic in my PS 2440 Lecture Notes

Click below for Appellate Brief Material

Issues appealed and appellate argument schedule (this is an example of what the issues may look like. Actual issues will be posted at the time of assignment.)

Case Exhibits

Appellate Brief Example: Appellant

Rules of Appellate Procedure

Rules of Evidence (go to Cornell Law School's site for notes to each rule)



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