GUEST BLOG Stephanie Baldwin, 1L at the University of Arizona Law
If you were like me, you thought writing the memo this semester would seem more natural. After all, we already have one memo under our belt, and we have completed a semester worth of legal writing. However, I was wrong, and I was not alone in my thinking. Since most of us are starting to receive our memo feedback I wanted to share some tips that I have learned along the way.
First… Breathe in and breathe out…
I get it; it can be stressful to read a critique from the professor or your writing fellow about your memo. I think my professor said it best when she said: “feedback can be so hard on the memos because writing is so personal”. She is right. We spent countless hours on research, writing, and editing to reach the word limit, and now it feels like we find out if it was “worth it”, is our memo “good”. Breathe in breathe out… The critical thing to remember at this point is that your memo is just a first draft. No one (except maybe you) expected it to be perfect. Remember the goal of the feedback is to help you improve your writing.
Give yourself enough time to read the feedback before your meeting
There seem to be two different types of people when it comes to reviewing memo feedback. Some eagerly open it while others wait to open it until the very last minute to see their feedback. I am not saying you have to open it the second you receive it, but you can use the feedback more productively the earlier you review it.
Be sure to read all of your feedback with an open mind
It can be daunting to open the document with your memo feedback. Forge forward and read all the comments. One of my classmates also stressed the importance of reading the feedback with an open mind. They suggested reading the feedback in a way that you just assume that what you did was wrong. This will help you be more receptive to the feedback, rather than trying to defend your point of view. Also, instead of trying to tackle all of the feedback at once, start small and take it one comment at a time. For each comment make some notes. The notes could be a question, a tip to yourself, or taking the time to answer the questions posed in the feedback. Keep going until you finished. Then review all of the comments together to see any overreaching themes for areas of improvement.
Create a list of questions for the professor
After you have reviewed and made comments to the feedback, create a list of questions to ask your professor. This will help you be more organized during your feedback meeting and allow you to prioritize the issues you are not sure how to resolve.
If there are issues with structure (CREAC/IRAC), make an outline
You likely created an outline while you were writing your memo, but if your professor has provided a critique about the flow of your memo, make a brief outline of your memos structure with proposed changes. Plan to take this new outline into the meeting to help you gain clarity, and it might provide insight to the overall structure the professor is looking for in the memo.
Finally, seek additional help when needed.
Asking for help can be difficult, “but do not let the fear of striking out stop you from playing the game.” Take advantage of office hours, use the writing center, and ask for help from your assigned writing fellow. They are all eager to help you navigate the writing process. Remember at the end of the day the purpose of writing the memo is to help us improve our legal writing abilities, and the more help you seek, the better your writing will be.
What other tips do you have for handling feedback from your memo? Let me know over @The1LLife on Twitter and Instagram!