Legal Writing Launch: A Chat about Powerful Legal Writing with Professor Bev Meyers
This is the transcript from the podcast in which Legal Writing Launch Founder, Bev Meyers, discussed legal writing with the Ladies Who Law School hosts, Samantha Lemke (Sam) and Haylie Davis (Haylie).
The episode aired on January 31, 2022. It is available at: (Apple) https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/ladies-who-law-school/id1496560856 and (Audible) https://www.audible.com/pd/Ladies-Who-Law-School-Podcast/B08K564ZXY.
SAM: Hi, guys, and welcome back to the Ladies Who Law School Podcast. I’m Sam!
HAYLIE: And I’m Haylie!
SAM: And this week we have a very special episode. It’s all about legal writing and the power-packed paragraph, which you will learn if you listen to the episode, which you should, because we seriously had such a great time recording this. And, we got really inspired to be badass legal writers after this. So, tune in and let us know what you think, because we always want to know your feedback.HAYLIE: Yes, guys, please help us welcome our guest. She is the founder of Legal Writing Launch, and she has so much to share. So, let’s dive in.HAYLIE: Please help me welcome our guest, Professor Bev Meyers. Hi, Bev, how are you doing today?
BEV: Doing really well. Thank you. It’s a real pleasure to be here.
HAYLIE: Great, we’re so happy to have you. So, Bev, tell everybody where you went to law school and why?
BEV: Well, that was about 100 million years ago and it’s interesting. So, my dad was a prosecuting attorney in Detroit, the Detroit area. And I always thought what he did was really interesting, and I was always a very logical person. So, I grew up in Detroit. I went to [the] University of Michigan in Ann Arbor for undergrad. Then I moved to California because I just love California. And, I moved to San Diego. And, then I went to the University of San Diego School of Law.
BEV: And I liked it there a lot, it was a very good law school with a really nice vibe, and it wasn’t so super competitive. People would be known to go use the gym and the swimming pool.
BEV: It was a really good place to go.
HAYLIE: That’s awesome. So, can you tell us a little bit more about your experience at the University of San Diego Law? What were some of your struggles and some of your accomplishments while you were there?
BEV: Yeah, that’s a really good question. You know, it’s interesting, because we all have our insecurities and all that, and one of the things that I did, which was I guess was both a struggle and an accomplishment, was I ended up writing onto the Law Review. So, I did not get on with grades. And, that was a wonderful experience. And then, I was an editor on the Law Review, comments editor. And another experience I had there was, I was in a trial competition where we made it all the way to regionals. And, we were the regional champions, and then we went to nationals and did not place there. But, it was kind of fun. We went to Texas. And the other piece is that [. . . ] I kind of found my niche in law school in doing trial work and advocacy work. And, I think one of you [was] talking about wills and estates on your podcast and the trials and tribulations of that. But if it had just been that I might have been bored to death. Kind of like how you were talking about in your third year, they’ll bore you. And, I have some tips on that.
BEV: And so, they started a seminar, just to test it out, and it was on Evidence and it was way, way fun. And, I was one of the testers on it, and we got to call our own witnesses. And one of the things I did was I found out that, remember the Ted Bundy case, the serial killer and killed all the nurses and all that? Well, the forensic odontologist lived in San Diego. So, he was retired by then, and I called him . . . as a witness, and I was able to put him on. And it was really interesting, because, you know what his claim to fame was? He was able to testify that a piece of gum that was in Bundy’s van had the victim’s bite marks in it. Isn’t that wild?
HAYLIE: That is wild.
SAM: It’s pretty intense.
HAYLIE: Yeah. Oh my gosh.
BEV: So, I found that that was kind of my passion when I was in law school. [I wanted . . .] to do . . . more practical stuff and more of the trial stuff. But that’s not necessarily where my career led me. Which is kind of interesting. So, shall I go on?
SAM: Yes, tell us more!
HAYLIE: What did you do after law school?
BEV: Well, again, in keeping with that, I thought I wanted to do advocacy work, meaning in the courtroom. And so I joined the City Attorney’s office and it’s a really great idea for new lawyers to go to a DA’s office or [a] PD’s office or city attorney and get trial experience. Because no matter what you end up doing, if you know how something ends in a trial, then you know how to prepare for trial.
BEV: Right? So, you get used to opening statements and closing arguments, but not just that, preparing your evidence and so that goes back to discovery. Right? Whether it be criminal or civil. So, it’s a really, really good experience for any of that, for any kind of litigation practice. And so, I went to the City Attorney’s, and I liked it and I had about 25 jury trials in two years.
HAYLIE: Oh my gosh.
BEV: But part of that time was interesting. There was someone who was on maternity leave, and this was even before I got my bar results.
BEV: And that was in, what they call the Appellate Division, but it was really Motions. And I took over for her and I just loved it. I love that kind of press of motion work and figuring things out very quickly, but writing them well. And so, I ended up staying at the City Attorney’s Office after I passed the bar, did my stint in actually doing trials, and then got into a position in the Appellate Department and wrote a lot of motions. Now, I’ve had kind of an interesting career. I went to private practice briefly, hated that, hated every minute of it. It was all about just money and after you’re dealing with a governmental entity where sometimes you have First Amendment issues or Fourth Amendment issues, and then you’re talking about discovery, ‘They didn’t respond to interrogatory Number 36.’ And then you’re like, ‘Oh, just shoot me right now.’
SAM: (Laughing) Yeah.
HAYLIE: When you were in private practice, what law did you practice? And did you do it by yourself? Or were you at a firm? Or how was that?
BEV: That’s a good question. It was a small firm, and it was about, strangely enough, employment law, some part, and I like that okay. It felt like a little too much drama for me. I know [employment law is] something that you like, Haylie. But I mean, it was kind of like, you know, you had to figure out who all the players were and who was treating someone poorly and why and did you really care. At the end of the day, I just didn’t care that much. (Laughing) But anyway, it was also insurance, bad faith, which was interesting at the time. So, you were kind of going after these insurance companies that are hurting people. And some personal injury. [I]t just wasn’t my cup of tea, because at the end of the day, it’s always about just money, it’s not about a more interesting result.
HAYLIE: Of course.
BEV: And then from there I went to a DA’s office in San Mateo and did that for about a year. So that again is jury trials and a lot of misdemeanor preliminary hearings. And, that’s a really good way to [hone] your trial skills, too, by having this many evidentiary hearings. And then I made my way to the Attorney General’s office, and I was there for almost 30 years.
SAM: Oh, wow. So, can you give us a breakdown of what a day-to-day looks like at the AG’s office? Like, what are you doing all day?
BEV: Okay, that’s a good question. So, where I ended up for the bulk of my career was in a section called Health, Education and Welfare. And what I really liked about it was a lot of policy work, and we defended the government, primarily. We did some plaintiff work, as well. But I also ran the law student program there and that’s what I just adored. Where students would come in, I would hire them, and they’d work in the summer, we’d usually have three. And then we have them during the school year. Harvard, Yale, Stanford, University of San Francisco, Golden Gate University. I did not discriminate there by law school. And then, they would write motions for our practice and [I would] supervise them in court on the motions. And, they would assist me on trials, as well. So, I did a lot of mentoring that way. I really enjoyed it.
BEV: But so, let’s see, that practice was kind of twofold, mostly. The sort of day-to-day trial work aspect of- so I was lucky. I got to do trial work and a lot of writing; and lawyers don’t always get to do that. So, the trial work I did was on behalf of the Commission on Teacher Credentialing. So, I would go after a teacher who sexually molested a student, and I would seek to revoke their credential. But we would have to put on a whole evidentiary hearing and it would be, for instance, one teacher had groomed the student by, you know, in a ridiculous way, writing letters to her, which of course, she kept, and that was all in evidence. And so, students would also put on those cases, I mean, they would put on witnesses, or they put on an entire case, and I would supervise them. And I loved it. They loved it. And then, where we wrote more, we had a lot of really big cases. We had the California High School Exit Exam as a graduation requirement and whether that violated minorities’ [right to] equal protection—things like that.
BEV: And then we also had other really big cases, since I was there for almost 30 years, I dealt with when the Medicaid program, which is called Medical, so that’s the program for the poor, as opposed to Medicare, for the elderly. When the California Medicaid Program started placing their patients into managed care and whether that was legal or not legal and the way in which they did it. [D]id they have to do it where they just automatically placed them in managed care? Or did they have to put some in fee for service? And a lot of things where you learn a lot about a certain type of program. So, there was a lot of writing. I’ve filed briefs in the Supreme Court, California Supreme Court. It was a really wonderful career and then, during that entire time, pretty much the entire time, I was a law professor. So I loved it.
BEV: And I really recommend to people to think outside of the box about careers. So instead of just thinking, ‘Okay, I [am going to have to] join this firm and work here forever,’ and have what we call the ‘golden handcuffs’ where you can’t leave, think about other ways of patching together a fulfilling legal experience and a mix, a good life- work balance. And so, I was always a part-time professor and a full-time lawyer and it managed to work out. I still do that, I teach at John F. Kennedy School of Law and teach part time as an adjunct. And then . . . in 2020, [I] developed my own business called Legal Writing Launch, which is an intensive legal writing course. [It] seems [like] . . . the biggest population of students I get, are new lawyers. And I think it’s because there just isn’t enough one-to-one mentoring out there. Is that how you guys feel about it, too?
SAM: Yeah. I mean, I’m lucky to have a solid mentor, but it’s pretty hard to find them. Like, you know, people don’t want to meet for coffee, even.
HAYLIE: Or just don’t even want to read your writing and talk about it, you know?
BEV: Well, that’s the biggest problem and I remember when I went to the AG’s office before that. God knows I filed all kinds of briefs, oppositions to motions to suppress evidence and all the criminal law departments that I was in, and if anybody changed one word on it, I would have been lucky. You know what I mean? So, I got no supervision, and I went to the AG’s office, and they’re perfectionists, you know what I mean? And it was a little hard to take at first, but then you start writing the way they’re teaching you to write. And then your writing is [on] a whole different plane . . . .
HAYLIE: I just want to know everything. I want to be a great legal writer. I mean, I can already see myself using your program and when I get out, just because, like we said, I don’t have a really super strong mentor, I am just constantly working at different parts of my legal writing and research. So, what do you say and what is your ultimate call to action for people using your program? Is it to learn how to write better? Is it to learn how to write at a certain level? Is it just a mentoring situation? Can you just tell us a little bit more about it?
BEV: Yeah, Haylie, that’s a great question. So, it’s really all of that. Let me just tell you about how I built it; I built it based upon all of my experience coming together. And I noticed that the students that I mentored as law students and then the students that I taught, that they didn’t understand what I call the power-packed paragraph. And that’s where you take IRAC per issue and develop it strictly using IRAC. Now, I use a different version of that. I prefer CRAC: Conclusion, Rule, Analysis, and Conclusion. And all that means is that instead of your topic sentence being a question, it says, ‘Did Joe Schmo commit negligence when he ran through the red light and hit our client?’ Instead of saying that each time, you just say it affirmatively: ‘Joe Schmo committed negligence when he ran through red light and hit our client.’’ And then you know what IRAC is, but I profess a very strict use of it.
BEV: And I find that what happens with people, is that they mix all the issues together or elements together and so I have them unwind all that and really take like, okay, if we’re going to talk about a neighbor’s garage was broken into and beer was stolen, and now our client is the defendant and is being charged with that by the DA’s office, well, you know, the first element to analyze is breaking and entering. So, in other words, we’ll define burglary, perhaps we’ll say it in a topic sentence. Well, let’s just go element by element just really quickly. But if we’re talking about breaking and entering, then we would say, ‘our client arguably broke and entered when he broke into the neighbor’s garage window and then removed three cases of beer.’ And then I would say next, ‘What’s our rule?’ Let’s say we’ve already defined burglary above. Now we go to ‘breaking and entering is,’ and we define that and then we mix in our facts and then we draw a conclusion about it. Now, the beauty of taking CRAC so literally, is that let’s say you’re turning that same problem into a memo, then as soon as you’ve said what the prosecution’s argument can be, then immediately you can say what the defense argument will be.
HAYLIE: Counter argument, yeah.
BEV: The defense will counter this, right? The defense will argue that the mere fact that our client possessed beer . . . and the neighbor’s window was broken [aren’t] enough to show that it was our client that actually did the breaking and entering, actually broke the window. Right? And then we could [state] a conclusion about that element. But you see how you’re [to proceed] really methodically. And it seems like, ‘Oh, yeah, I get it,’ but I think people, they go glibly through it . . . . And then the other piece, I’ll tell you, and one of my colleagues and good friends that I interviewed for Legal Writing Launch is a judge, Jim Humes, and I said to him, ‘Two things stand out in my mind: I have a blog at my website, www.legalwritinglaunch.com.’ And I’m saying that because this might pick it up as Legal Writing Lunch.
SAM + HAYLIE: (Laughing)
BEV: And then I get no juju from that. But what Jim said that was really helpful is, two things, one is the most important part of real estate and anything you write, what do you think it might be?
SAM + HAYLIE: (Silence)
BEV: I don’t want to put you on the spot.
BEV: This is not the Socratic Method. We just got back from our break, what are you talking about?
SAM: I did not prepare for this! (Laughing)
BEV: Sorry! It’s the introduction.
SAM + HAYLIE: Yes, yes. Okay.
BEV: Then why is the introduction so important? It’s so important because that’s your prime real estate. You’re very likely to lose your reader shortly after the introduction.
HAYLIE: Yeah, totally.
BEV: So, the important thing, too, about the introduction is that you want to make it like an abstract of a law review article. You want to make it a mini argument. You don’t necessarily need your citations and that kind of thing, but you want to make it a really commonsensical, complete analysis. As opposed to what I learned in law school was like, ‘I’m going to talk about breaking and entering and then I’m going to talk about dwelling and I’m going to talk about intent to steal.’ Otherwise, I’m going to say, ‘Here the prosecution will likely argue that the garage is a dwelling because it’s right next to, whatever the factors are,’ right? And so your introduction is really critical. And then the other piece he said, which I thought was really interesting, is I think you don’t know how much you should edit your work. The best work is in your editing. Okay? That’s where you clean it up. That’s where you make it truly amazing. [Y]ou shouldn’t have one extra word in there. And, you should be incredibly proud of it. I said to Jim, [Court of Appeal] Justice Humes, ‘How many drafts do you usually do on a written [appellate] opinion?’ He says, ‘I don’t know, about 20.’
SAM: Oh, my. Oh, my goodness. He wasn’t kidding.
BEV: You guys are adorable.
HAYLIE: I don’t know if I’ve ever done 20 drafts.
BEV: You’re not expected to but don’t think you should just do one draft; don’t think you should just do two. I mean, I could tell you in practice at the Attorney General’s Office, I’d get a motion for a temporary restraining order and I had to file a brief the next day. I had to bring it into court with me. Does that mean because I didn’t have time, that meant that it would be kind of crappy and it would just be a first draft? No, I was up late that night. I probably wrote five drafts just to get it right. I mean, we’re in this profession, we have to get it right.
HAYLIE: So, I want to talk more about the power-packed paragraph, because we have recently been learning as we get ready for the Bar, that breaking it down in that CRAC format and really covering each element is, like you said, a better way of legal writing. And, we always talk about hand holding the reader . . . . And, do you think that using that method and breaking it down like that is better in that way and that’s why it’s a successful way to write?
BEV: So, you’re raising a couple of really good questions there. I do not know how they write, how they teach you to write for the Bar. In other words, I don’t know if they tell you that you write a heading for your issue and then you write a heading for your rule or your analysis. You know, I don’t know. And that’s what your Bar Review course will tell you. But you call it hand-holding, right, for the reader? I call it ‘hit the reader over the head with it.’
HAYLIE: Oh, love it. Even better. Yeah.
SAM: They can’t deny what you’re saying.
BEV: Right. But all I’m saying is, I’m talking about that structure. And it won’t fail you if you use it. And I can’t tell you how many papers I edited for my students, Legal Writing Launch, and as a law professor, where they’re missing steps. If you don’t miss a step in IRAC or CRAC, you’re going to be fine. And then the other piece I would recommend to people is, this happens sometimes when people don’t understand what they’re writing; is they’re just like writing, writing, writing. Right? And you’ll never do well with that. At some point, you have to understand what the key tension is.
BEV: At some point, you have to get your takeaways. Like, ‘Oh, okay, so for the burglary problem, is it going to be really the equivalent of receiving stolen property or is it going to be that he actually broke and entered into the house and then that’s a burglary?’ Right? But you can’t just go through the motions and write. I mean, you can start that way, we all have to. When I would write a brief and a client would say, ‘Are we going to win, are we going to win?’ And I would say, ‘You know, I don’t know. I have to write it first.’ And then as I started writing and then I’d get to a point where I couldn’t counter something, then I would call him up and say, ‘I’ve got a real problem here, I think we should settle. You know, I just can’t come up with anything right here.’ So, the only way through it is through it. . . .
HAYLIE: And just working through the problem and I’m working on my moot court argument and everything right now and I love that you say you just have to work through it. And, you have to understand it and really narrow down the issue that you are arguing and that’s the debate. Because it’s, like you said, in every legal rule, there are multiple elements and multiple things that we can debate about. And I think, just like what you said about just writing, I think whenever I was 1L, and I first did my exams, professors would say, ‘It’s like a stream of consciousness, like, don’t do that.’ And as more as I’ve learned, I’ve realized, breaking it down for them, it’s easier on you and it’s easier on the reader, because, just like you said, you don’t forget parts of CRAC when you break it down by each sub-issue.
BEV: You have to make it super easy for the reader. In fact, I did Medicaid law for years, and my God, some of the stuff was absolutely mind-numbing. But, you would actually have to put up what the math is; you can’t expect the reader to do any of it. So, let me answer one other point, you said you’ve got your moot court coming up. When we prepared for oral argument in the Court of Appeal, we talked a lot about rocks. So, in other words, rocks that you would come back to. So, have like four or five rocks, so that no matter where the argument went, you could come back to this, to those places, and figure out what they are. And, also remember that those are going to encompass your tension. So, in other words, it’s a tension between your position and the other side’s position and then how you’re right about it.
SAM: Your rocks, I love that. So going along with making it easier on the reader, essentially being short and sweet and to the point. So, what about when you see writing with a lot of legalese and like big words, what do you say to that?
BEV: I cut it out.
SAM: I just want to highlight there because, you know, I think a lot of 1Ls when they’re first writing, they want to put in all the big words and all the legal-sounding stuff that sounds cool, but it’s so true that the more simple, the more straightforward. I had to learn that through my 1L to 2L jump, I learned how to writes essays then.
BEV: Let me mention about that, though; it’s not a small thing to get to short and sweet. It takes a lot of work to get to it. Right? That’s where your drafts come in to get to that point where something reads really well and is really, really logical. And I will say about my course, too: whatever level you’re at, you can go to the next level. So, let’s say you’re a competent writer; you use IRAC/CRAC ok, use it well enough, but you’re not very interesting. Well, then let’s work with you with your style. Let’s take your style up a notch; let’s have you start a sentence with a gerund instead. You know, ‘Running is fun because.’ Who are the best writers? If you look at Chief Justice Roberts, he’s a fine, fine writer. Ginsburg, former Justice Ginsburg, was an amazing writer. Why? Not because of all the legalese. But, the way to get to the main point. That’s it. So, I guess, I don’t know if short and sweet is the word, but I think it’s clarity, it’s defining the issues, understanding the issues deeply so you can reduce them to their essence and then name that tension.
SAM: I’m going to get that little blurb out of this and preach that all day.
HAYLIE: Because it’s so true, I totally see that, just long drawn out 12 sentence paragraphs.
BEV: Some of it’s comical. Yes, it’s absolutely comical. One of the things that I teach is to not be so concerned about quoting word for word, but instead summarize your point. And as long as you have the citation there, you’re fine. You know what I mean? And I think there’s 1Ls or new lawyers, people are like, ‘Oh, I’m going to be accused of plagiarism’ or whatever. Right? Because if your citation is there, it’s just fine.
HAYLIE: It’s cited. You’re good.
BEV: In my class, in my course, in Legal Writing Launch, there’s an example from a definition of armed bank robbery and it’s ridiculous. You know what I mean? It goes on for five lines without a period, you know? But it’s like, am I going to let anybody use that definition? No way!
HAYLIE: I’m also thinking on a final or on the Bar exam, like how could you even remember five sentences worth of a rule? You know?
BEV: You can’t.
HAYLIE: And I think what you mean by short and sweet is very just, like you said, to clarity, to the point, however that looks for you. I don’t know if this is right and I’d love to get your opinion on this, but I feel like as a law student, you first learn how to write. And then as you become a new lawyer, you’re learning more and more what you didn’t maybe learn in law school stylistically. You’re learning these next steps and as you go through practice, that’s when you can really turn into a good writer. Because I think there’s so many times now where we read current lawyers’ briefs and like, ‘What? How did they-’
SAM: How are they practicing?
BEV: (Laughing) There’s lots of that. Yeah, there’s a lot of that. Now, that’s a really, really good point, Haylie. I think that basic writing and how to write things in a commonsensical way and as we’re talking about to get to the tension, and I think that, yeah, people just write too much and they don’t figure out what’s the bottom line here. I mean, one of the things that I think you’re going to find, really, two things, one thing I think you’re going to find really significant as you go through, is how important it is to be really logical. And as you start off and you’re going to be like a litigator, let’s say, and you’re doing motion practice, you get to oral argument and there’s a tentative ruling, and the tentative ruling is like a page and a half, and you’ve each filed 15-page briefs. But the judge is right, because the judge is just saying, ‘Is this what I’m supposed to be following?’ and the judge is right, and it could be filled in and of course if it goes up on appeal then it’s going to be fleshed out further.
BEV: But my other point, too, is that when you start in law school, you’re really getting into that whole deductive reasoning and that type of practice. The only thing that I think is closest to it in undergrad is logic and math. Otherwise, we don’t really know it. So, it’s a stretch in law school to just get ourselves into that kind of really organized, logical reasoning. And then when you start practice, you’re insecure and you’re looking at other sample briefs and all that and you’re trying so hard and then eventually you get in a groove where you find your own style, too. But the styles that are really the most impressive, the real champions in the legal world, are ones that are really pretty commonsensical. Pretty commonsensical. If you listen to oral argument, even in front of the Supreme Court, let’s say on an abortion issue or something like that, they’re still ways where everybody’s really talking to each other and it’s because they understand that minuscule issue that they’re talking about at that time. So, there’s these ways that you have to wrap your arms around issues.
HAYLIE: After everything you’ve said, it just clicked for me; you have to understand what you’re writing about. And like you said, the tensions and everything that goes into the argument and that’s why the saying that you’re the most prepared in the courtroom for when it’s your time to argue, because you have to be and I think we laugh about other briefs and people. I think over time, people give up; they don’t work as hard, they get tired, and they got through their career, but in reality, it’s hard work. Like you said, to make it short, to make it clarified and everything, that takes work. It’s not just one draft.
BEV: That’s the work. Don’t think it’s the work to go get remote law review articles and hunt everything down. It’s not that; it’s the opposite of that. I mean, if it’s necessary, it’s a constitutional issue or whatever. But mostly, it’s not that; it’s to really understand the heart of the issue, what the other side’s saying, what you’re saying, what the judge can and can’t do and reduce it to that.
HAYLIE: I think that just takes reading and understanding and it’s just practice.
HAYLIE: [A]nd, I guess that’s why when people, lawyers, get into a niche area of law, they really run with that. Because once you’ve learned it a couple times, you feel like you’re the expert in it, so it makes sense.
BEV: Well, it’s amazing how quickly somebody makes you an expert, too. When I was doing Medicaid law, I had one case involving bankruptcy and I spent all this time going through hornbooks and understanding it. Well, then I was the Medicaid bankruptcy expert. But, I will say it’s kind of interesting along this line is, to really understand something, you might need to go to other sources. Then you think, in other words, if you don’t understand, let me take both of those. And if you don’t understand something right away, just keep writing. Okay? Keep writing until you understand it. And I usually start with a power packed paragraph about all my issues and then they turn into separate paragraphs per issue. And then I flesh them out and I go back and write my introduction after that.
BEV: But to understand something that’s really foreign to you, I’ve had students that just never understand it; it’s clear they don’t understand it. And they’re no good to anybody when they do that. Go look it up, go look it up in Wikipedia, go look it up somewhere. Whatever it takes. Go look it up at the agency’s website. If it’s Medicaid law, what is the Medicaid rule on it? What’s the directive that they’ve given out about it, about these people that required skilled nursing facility care in their own home? Things like that. Do whatever it takes to understand it and it may not be just like, more and more cases. You know?
SAM: I do that at work because I’m looking at civil rights 1983 stuff right now and I had no idea, I had to ask you. I was like, ‘What am I looking at right now?’ And I was on YouTube, Wikipedia, all firm websites telling me, blogs that break it down. Yeah, it helped me understand it and then I could go into the cases and then go, ‘Okay, I know what they’re talking about.’
BEV: You know the Breonna Taylor case, the George Floyd family lawsuits, those are all . . . 1983 cases, you know what I mean? And right, so that’s how you understand it. There may be an underlying federal cause of action but what allows somebody to sue is section 1983. And I know this because we did that kind of work. We defended it a lot.
HAYLIE: Oh, yeah, I was about to say, like, when we were talking about being at the AG’s office, I was like, I saw a lot of that when I was researching today.
BEV: Yup. In fact, here’s my picture with Kamala Harris back there.
SAM: That’s awesome. Oh, my gosh, so cool.
BEV: Yeah, I worked with five different AG’s while I was there for almost 30 years, and she was the last one that I worked with before I retired in 2016.
SAM: I have a question just kind of circling back to you being a professor because I kind of wanted to ask it before and just didn’t have the chance. But how, if a law student is thinking, ‘I kind of would like to be an adjunct or professor,’ what are some steps that they should be taking to start going down that path?
BEV: Well, that’s a good question. I think start talking to their professors about what their paths have been. And then probably [a student is] really not going to be ready to do that until you’ve been out for a few years, if you’re going to be an adjunct. I think it’s a whole different road if you want to be like a full-time professor, and that might require getting a master’s and all that. But get your expertise going first and then see if you can reach out to people that you may know that are adjuncts and ask them about getting in somewhere because they frequently are looking for adjuncts. But, usually [they] want a little bit of experience from somebody and perhaps an area that they can teach in. For instance, they might want to get somebody who’s done administrative law and can actually create a course on administrative law.
HAYLIE: That makes sense. I want to ask you a question about the AG’s office. You talked about hiring law students, and you didn’t discriminate where they went to school, which I love to hear that, but whenever you were looking at their resumes, interviewing them, the whole process, what were some of the things that stood out to you when you selected candidates and what are some of the things that you were like, ‘Please don’t ever do this again?’
BEV: Let me talk about the latter first because it’s kind of funny. I went to a meeting once at Stanford, and we were talking about selecting law students and hiring them and that kind of thing. And we just started laughing about law students’ cover letters. And to me, if somebody had mistakes in their cover letter, like poor grammar or typos or whatever, I might not even put it in the pile at all. Some people have to be careful about what they say, like one person wanted to work at the I don’t know, maybe it was the Sierra Club or something like that, and they started off by saying, ‘The earth is our mother.’
SAM: I don’t know if this is the right move!
HAYLIE: Like, this is a different vibe.
BEV: At the end of the day, we’re human beings, too, so it was pretty funny. So, there was that. And then, let’s see what I would look for? We kind of had my pick of all of it, because we had a lot of students in the Bay Area that were from all these fantastic schools. But I would look at a variety of things, because I wouldn’t want to just, to me, frankly, grades were not that important. If they are to you, you know what I mean, and you have that to show, then show it. But otherwise, like anything you excel at. So, like I said, I did trial competitions, I was a comments editor where I wrote on. Even your hobbies are interesting. I mean, there was a time when, I think somebody was like a professional chef and, of course, I thought that was fascinating. I mean, that was cool. And then I would say, too, in an interview, to really bring yourself to the interview. Don’t be so nervous about it. I remember one woman that I actually ended up hiring, she was the first candidate at Stanford one time, and she was wonderful and, like I said, we ended up hiring her as a summer clerk, but she was so serious. And then finally she laughed about something, and she really laughed about it. And I was like, ‘Okay, you’re hired.’
HAYLIE: You can crack a joke. Yeah, no, absolutely.
BEV: You need to know that you can talk to people in the office. You know? When I coordinated the law student program at the AG’s office in my section, which was Health, Education, and Welfare, we took the students every year to the San Francisco Giants baseball game. And we wanted to know that people were going to come and that they were going to have a good time and we were comfortable with each other. And, we all went out and drank [a] beer afterward. And, you know, it was a lot of fun. So, you want to make sure that you bring your whole package to something.
HAYLIE: Absolutely. That’s such great advice. Well, thank you so much for all of this. I mean, I feel like I just want to use this course right after it.
SAM: I was about to say, I need to work on my style because I’m definitely the person who’s looking at sample briefs 24/7 not knowing how to write.
HAYLIE: And it just makes you feel more comfortable to know that over time, we will get better with work and we’re not afraid of hard work.
BEV: Absolutely. I can see that you both are going to be excellent lawyers. I can tell.
HAYLIE: Thank you so much. So, can you tell everybody where they can find your program when they are ready to try it?
BEV: Yup, just go online, go to https://www.legalwritinglaunch.com and we have three different levels of the course. One is just all electronic, so that there’s lecture notes and videos and if people are really busy, they can simply . . . watch the videos. They’re like four minutes each and they’re all on topics like you’d want to know; they’re practical things. [In the assignment-editing add-ons, the assignments grow] in terms of difficulty. So, you start with a power-packed paragraph and then you do two legal memos, one with question presented format, the other with the introduction, discussion, conclusion format. You do a demand letter, and you do an opinion letter in the demand letter. You tell the . . . county council to stop barring our client, a punk rock band. from playing within the city limits because of their lyrics criticizing the city council. So, it’s interesting.
BEV: Then you do a motion to suppress evidence and then you finally do an appellate brief with references to the record. And then there are two other levels; one is just the assignment editing that I mentioned just now, where students will work directly with me [on these assignments]. And then, the highest level, which I really recommend to everybody, is to work with me on Zoom. So, you write one of these assignments and then you submit it to me, and I edit it and then we meet about it. And so, then we can look at your trajectory. What are you doing consistently that’s problematic and how can we correct it? What are you doing systematically that’s good? And I will say, students have unbelievable progress doing this process. Unbelievable progress. Where they start from being a bit of a mess, you know, and then they are tight by the end of their time.
SAM: I love to hear that. I’m just drooling over your class.
BEV: Take it! I’d love to have you both.
HAYLIE: Well, thank you so much, Bev, and we really appreciate having you on today.
BEV: Okay, my pleasure. Thank you.
SAM: Thank you!
HAYLIE: Oh, my gosh, guys, I want to join her program stat. I want to become a super-strong legal writer. I know that as I’m currently writing my moot court brief, I realized that legal writing is a little bit of a struggle for me, even though I’m a 3L. It’s just one of those learning curves that you have to go through as a young lawyer. So, I think Bev is a person I want to join up with and learn everything she has to share. And, I love the idea of being able to do one-on-one sessions and talk with her more about my writing. And also just like before the Bar, if this is you know, anyone listening, that’s a younger law student, I think you should jump on this stat, if you’re a one L and you haven’t written your briefs, or your trial briefs, or anything like that, run, go join this program, because you’re going to boost your grade, I guarantee you. And, if you’re a little bit older law student or a lawyer, practicing this is a great chance to sharpen your skills.
SAM: Especially since practice makes perfect and the more you write, the better you’ll get. So, it’s a great way to just build your skills, and also, even if you don’t think you’re going to be doing a lot of writing for some reason in your career, you never know if you might have to.
HAYLIE: Absolutely, guys. Well, as always, make sure and follow us on Instagram and like us on Facebook. Also, join our Facebook group. And, if you have any questions or any thoughts about our episodes, don’t be afraid to email us, slide in our DMS and give us that feedback.
SAM: Alright, guys, stay safe out there. Wash your hands, sanitize, and wear your mask. Bye!