Carolina Law’s RRWA Program Continues to Climb in the Rankings
By Jess Clarke
Soon after Allison Cottle 2L started at Carolina Law last fall, fresh off finishing her undergraduate psychology degree in 2017 at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, she had a realization about legal writing. It’s “as different from undergraduate writing as the scientific journal article is different from an historical analysis,” she says.
That means legal writing is concise. It’s ultra clear with the use of conventions for various types of documents. And definitely no fluff, as some students call “the flowery language included in an undergraduate paper to fill in the gaps between your points,” Cottle says.
Through Carolina Law’s two-semester Research, Reasoning, Writing and Advocacy (RRWA) program, required for all 1Ls, Cottle developed solid writing skills with one-on-one attention and constructive critiques from faculty that have helped her refine her analysis.
It’s not just students who recognize how significantly the RRWA builds their skills and prepares them for legal practice. The RRWA program is ranked 12th among the country’s legal writing programs in U.S. News & World Report’s “America’s Best Graduate Schools” 2019 edition, an increase in ranking over the previous year.
That’s a testament to the structure and content of the six-credit program and to the cohesion and collaboration of the professors who teach RRWA.
“Our program has changed dramatically since 2010,” says Craig Smith, clinical professor and assistant dean for the Writing and Learning Resources Center, where the RRWA program is based. “We have gone from relying on adjuncts to a collaborative team of nine full-time faculty members, all of whom are very accomplished and well-known around the country. The student experience also has changed. Our program is both very rigorous and very supportive. Every student gets an opportunity to work closely with two different professors over the course’s two semesters.”
The program fosters experiential learning aimed at developing competencies that the professors have collaboratively articulated. In addition to immersion in the nuances of legal research and writing, students participate in simulations of office interactions and other situations they will encounter in legal practice. They have regular one-on-one conferences with faculty and get detailed feedback on their writing. The program also has developed standard student assessments, aligned with proficiency expectations, to measure how well students have progressed.
Through the RRWA program, students also develop skills in oral advocacy and are coached in various aspects of professionalism. These include managing time, addressing supervisors and judges, setting agendas for meetings, asking for help, and both offering and accepting constructive criticism.
“From day one, students are writing as well as talking and reading,” Smith says. “So they get a very complete first-year legal education. They have their traditional classes, while at the same time they learn how to find different types of law and how to write analyses, arguments, emails, letters, and so on. We get them working as though they were lawyers from the beginning.”
Through RRWA, Cottle, of Elizabethtown, North Carolina, has gained experience writing office memos, motion memos and appellate briefs in working with multiple faculty members. “I’ve learned how to adapt my work to the expectations of different professors, which I believe provides a competitive advantage in the job market in that I know I can adapt with ease to any work environment and future supervisors’ expectations,” she says.
Preparing students for various legal work environments — such as externships, clinics, summer jobs or full-time positions after graduation — is the ultimate goal of RRWA. The program also helps 1Ls prepare to succeed as upper-level students.
“Carolina Law lays a solid foundation right away in the first two semesters, not just for good ‘thinking like a lawyer’ but also for actually doing the research and writing that lawyers routinely do,” Smith says.
By Jess Clarke
Gurvich and Sean Marotta, a Washington, D.C., lawyer she met through another Twitter legal forum, tweet from their personal accounts, @RachelGurvich and @smmarotta, using the hashtag #PracticeTuesday. They set up the Twitter account @practicetuesday for their blog #PracticeTuesday (www.practicetuesday.com).
Now, many students, lawyers and judges look to #PracticeTuesday for perspectives on legal practice: tips to excel as a summer or junior associate, effective ways to write and respond to written discovery, how to prepare for depositions or oral arguments, avoiding burnout in the legal profession, and other best practices.
Gurvich and Marotta met through #AppellateTwitter and began co-hosting the weekly #PracticeTuesday conversations in November 2016 to expand on their #AppellateTwitter tweets.
“We realized there was a lot of great advice being shared on Twitter. We wanted a way to capture that,” says Gurvich, who practiced as a patent and appellate litigator at a large firm in Boston before coming to Carolina to teach legal research and writing. #PracticeTuesday “is particularly helpful for young lawyers, but I think more experienced lawyers find it interesting to see how their colleagues practice and learn from their habits and tips as well.”
The #PracticeTuesday tweets capture perse experiences from law students and professors, government attorneys, solo practitioners — and judges. “There are a number of great judges who have embraced Twitter and are very active” with the medium, Gurvich says.
Some of Gurvich’s Twitter followers are UNC students. “I get a lot of really good engagement from them,” she says.
From #PracticeTuesday tweets by legal professionals, Gurvich has gained insights on legal practice, legal writing pedagogy and other issues. “That has been instrumental in my growth as a professor,” she says. “It informs how I teach my students and helps me stay current in terms of what is expected” of new lawyers across the profession.
She sometimes tweets about Carolina Law’s innovative legal research and writing curriculum and shares stories “that demonstrate our students’ commitment to public service or publicize their successes in moot court competitions and other endeavors,” she says. “I like to think it’s helping the legal community learn about what we do here and what sets us apart.”
More broadly, “The opportunity to engage in conversations and learn from people you might not otherwise encounter is good for the profession,” notes Gurvich.
She and Marotta finally met in person when he came to Carolina Law to speak on a panel about appellate practice that Gurvich organized last semester—mostly through Twitter. Fellow panelist and D.C. appellate attorney Jaime Santos even filmed Gurvich and Marotta’s first meeting—and, of course, promptly tweeted the video.
“I’ve been surprised that I’ve formed meaningful relationships with people I’ve only known through Twitter,” Gurvich says.
Luke Everett—Teaching, Defending, Impacting
Teaching comes first for Clinical Associate Professor of Law Luke Everett. And practicing informs his teaching. For years Everett has engaged in high-profile pro-bono service by handling a case that’s challenging both federal and state Supreme Courts to address the privacy rights of convicted GPS-tracked criminals. The case has implications for everyone who uses a smart phone or other GPS-equipped device. In 2015, Everett won Grady v. North Carolina in the Supreme Court of the United States. His arguments persuaded the Court to vacate a decision of the Supreme Court of North Carolina because North Carolina’s “system of nonconsensual satellite-based monitoring” of certain convicted criminals “is plainly designed to obtain information. And since it does so by physically intruding on a subject’s body, it effects a Fourth Amendment search.” Grady v. North Carolina, 135 S.Ct. 1368, 1370–71 (2015). Following remand, the case has worked its way again to North Carolina’s highest court, where Everett will continue to argue it. He brings his advocacy experience with him into both his first-year legal research writing classroom and his Small Firm Civil Practice course, which he developed to teach students both the substantive law and the practice-management skills needed to run a small or solo practice.
Peter Nemerovski Receives ALWD Outstanding Service Award
Carolina Law’s Clinical Associate Professor, Peter Nemerovski, was recently recognized by the Association of Legal Writing Directors (ALWD) for his five years of service on the ALWD Annual Survey Committee.
ALWD is the non-profit professional association of directors of legal reasoning, research, writing, analysis, and advocacy programs from law schools throughout the United States, Canada and Australia.
ALWD has more than 300 members representing more than 150 law schools.
Upcoming Conference: Energy Transitions and Rural Communities
CE3 will host an interdisciplinary conference on November 9 exploring two energy-related challenges facing rural areas: (1) maximizing the local benefits of new energy infrastructure investments and (2) mitigating the economic impacts in communities that are losing coal-related jobs.
Speakers will include:
Mijin Cha, Occidental College
Mike Couick, Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina
Ann Eisenberg, University of South Carolina School of Law
Harrison Fell, N.C. State University Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics
Christopher Galik, N.C. State University School of Public and International Affairs
Mark Griffith, Troutman Sanders LLP
Blake Hudson, University of Houston Law Center
Kay Jowers, Nicholas Institute, Duke University
Nikhil Kaza, UNC Department of City and Regional Planning
Marilynn Marsh-Robinson, Environmental Defense Fund
Commissioner Charlotte Mitchell, N.C. Utilities Commission
Jonas Monast, UNC School of Law
Robert Sipes, Duke Energy
Melinda Taylor, Kay Bailey Hutchison Center for Energy, Law, and Business at UT Austin
Shelley Welton, University of South Carolina School of Law
Registration is open.
Carolina Law Welcomes Visiting Assistant Professor of Law Shelley Welton
Carolina Law is pleased to welcome Sheldon “Shelley” Holliday Welton as a visiting assistant professor of law and the Thomas F. Taft Distinguished Fellow in Environmental Law for the 2018 Fall semester. Welton is an assistant professor at the University of South Carolina School of Law. Her research focuses on how climate change is transforming energy and environmental law and governance. This semester she is teaching Energy Law and Environmental Law, and is partnering with Carolina Law’s Center for Climate, Energy, Environment, and Economics.
Valuing Distributed Energy Resources: A Comparative Analysis
A new CE3 white paper analyzes recent state efforts to determine the value of distributed energy resources. In some states, these processes are part of broader rate reform efforts. In others, the focus on valuing solar energy arises specifically in the context of rooftop net metering. This paper examines recent efforts to revise distributed energy valuation in nine states, comparing key factors that each state considered as part of the valuation process.