On their first day of fall quarter, incoming 1L students jumpstart their legal education with the first in a series of required courses that lay the groundwork for their next three years of law school. And while each subsequent quarter comes with a new set of classes, Legal Analysis, Research and Writing (LARW) is the only one they take all year long.

While doctrinal courses focus on teaching students what the law is, LARW teaches students how to research the law and apply it, all while developing them into better communicators. As Professor David J.S. Ziff puts it, “LARW is a ‘doing’ class.” All five LARW instructors require students to collaborate on projects in small groups and present to the class, replicating what it’s like to be a lawyer.

It’s not uncommon for 1L students, and upper-level students as well, to reflect on LARW as being one of their favorite classes. They appreciate its importance in preparing them to become better writers and researchers, as well as its real-world applications.

Discover more about UW Law’s Legal Analysis, Research and Writing program through the eyes of a current 1L student as well as a 2L student serving as an LARW fellow.

Read the Transcript

Ally Chen: LARW is one of those courses where you can really apply the things you learn in other classes.

Ariam Kiflemariam: Your doctrinal courses are teaching you what the law is and LARW is teaching you how to analyze and apply the law. I think the most challenging time for me was in the beginning, first learning the IRAC structure.

ALLY: Which is "issue, rule, application, conclusion."

ARIAM: That was something new to me because it felt very rigid.

ALLY: I realized, "you know, they really drill this IRAC thing into your head."

ARIAM: And it felt a little bit repetitive at first.

ALLY: But it's actually a very useful, linear, logical way of thinking about legal concepts and explaining them and applying them to facts.

ARIAM: What I learned later is that it's an effective way of communicating.

David Ziff: Generally, we do a lot of writing. We also do presentations. We do speaking. We do collaborating with others. We do conferences, mediations. You're not often just sitting in your office working by yourself, you're often working with other lawyers. I try to make it pretty active, and to give them a sense of what it's like day-to-day to be a lawyer.

ALLY: We do group work pretty much every single class period, at least once for a little bit. So, we're always moving around the room, getting into groups talking about just whatever it is we're learning that day.

DAVID: One assignment we just did was a presentation assignment where a client comes in with a question. They're trying to sell a property and they're trying to rent a property. And they want to know, hey, can I list it with this language in the listing? And can I screen applicants in a certain way?

ALLY: We're able to see the types of writing that other students do and perhaps how we could adjust our own writing to be better.

DAVID: The other thing that we have, which is a great opportunity for students, is the Legal Writing Fellows program. So, these are second- or third-year students who have gone through my first-year class.

ARIAM: I think of it as "get candid, trained feedback, but without it being accompanied by the weight of a grade."

DAVID: And they have office hours as well, and students can sign up to talk with them — someone who's a little bit closer to it.

ARIAM: I think a core part of the Legal Writing Fellows program is, you know, not just being a specific resource for writing assignments, but also as a part of building a broader community for 1L students at a time where it can feel a little bit scary when you're first coming in.

DAVID: Just personally, it's great being a part of the Legal Writing program because I get to work with amazing colleagues. This year, we have five professors who are teaching in the first-year program, and we collaborate on anything. We have a lot of freedom to do whatever we want. We use different problems. We use different in-class materials. But we're all sort of rowing in the same direction.

ARIAM: During my 1L summer, I externed for a federal judge at the Western District of Washington, and LARW definitely came in handy. As you can guess, central to that job is writing, writing, writing — all day, every day.

ALLY: I just think LARW is so important because right now I'm very focused on applying for jobs as a 1L during winter quarter. It's job-hunting season. You're always applying to different firms, and they always ask for a writing sample.

DAVID: When I hear that my class prepared students and gave them that foundation so they could go out and do that work and do it successfully in a way that helps their clients help their organizations, that's the best thing to hear.