Legal Writing Workshop

MCLE Credits: 11.0
Ethics Credits Included: 1.0

Live on Site: Thursday, April 28 - Friday, April 29 / Washington, D.C. (American University Washington College of Law)
Registration: 8:30 a.m.
Program: Thursday: 9:00 a.m. - Friday 1:15 p.m.
MCLE Credit: 11.0 (Ethics: 1.0)
Live-Interactive Credit: 11.0 Live Interactive MCLE Credit Symbol


Why Attend?

  • Are the legal writing classes you took back in law school the last writing training you experienced? 
  • Would you like an opportunity to study and improve your legal writing skills? 
  • This is a fun and unique day-and-a-half offering, limited to only 32 attendees and offering 11.0 hours of MCLE credit (including 1.0 hour of Ethics), designed to make you a better and more confident legal writer.

This program is sold out. Please e-mail Tanya at if you would like to be placed on a waiting list to register.

Cosponsored with the Virginia State Bar Section on the Education of Lawyers, the Virginia Bar Association Law Practice Management Division, and the American University Washington College of Law Legal Rhetoric Program.

This day-and-a-half intensive legal writing course will provide classroom instruction as well as hands-on writing and editing experience for participants, working in small groups. Participants not only will learn effective legal writing techniques, but will also have opportunities to work on written products of their own with the oversight of the faculty.

The workshop will focus on:

  • Basic grammar and writing strategies
  • Tailoring your legal writing to your recipients and purpose
  • Effectively writing a discussion or argument section of a memo
  • The importance of persuasive characterization and fact emphasis
  • Understanding, and implementing, roadmaps and transitions
  • Ethical considerations in legal writing

Plus, participants will be able to attend small, break-out sessions on various grammar and writing topics and issues of interest to them.




Day One:  Thursday, April 28

8:30 Registration
9:00 Effective Writing Strategies
David Spratt, Heather Ridenour

This highly interactive opening session will cover basic grammar and writing strategies and act as the foundation for the entire workshop. Topics discussed will include:  the language of the law; noun/pronoun agreement; avoiding misplaced modifiers; avoiding ambiguity; proper use of commas, colons, and semicolons; and sentence and paragraph construction.

10:30 Break
10:45 Tailoring Your Writing to Your Recipients and Purpose
Teresa Phelps, Paul Figley

This session will discuss the importance and necessity of thinking through a document before beginning to write it.  It will cover planning strategies that allow legal writers to write any type of legal document and will help them as they convert one type of legal document to another, e.g., turning an internal office memo into a client letter and/or a trial court brief.  This session will also cover specialized documents, like e-mails and PowerPoint presentations.
11:45 Organization of a Discussion/Argument Section (CREAC) 
Lise Beske, Elizabeth Keith

This session will teach attendees how to effectively write a discussion or argument section of a memo using an organizational strategy called CREAC (Conclusion/Context, Rules of law, rule Explanation, rule Application, and Conclusion), which is a variation on the IRAC (Issue, Rule, Application, Conclusion) formula most lawyers learned in law school.
12:45 Break
1:00 Lunch (provided at the seminar)
Panel Discussion:  Legal Writing Through the Eyes of Academia, the Bench, and
Law Firm Partners:    
Moderator: Prof. James Moliterno
Panelists: Judge Pamela Sargent, D. Alan Rudlin

The panel will offer their insights and advice on the importance of effective legal writing. 
2:00 Break
2:15 Individual Work Sessions (Correcting/Changing Text for Audience and Purpose / Writing a CREAC)
David Spratt and Washington College of Law Legal Rhetoric Program Faculty

Attendees will rotate between session workshops.  In one workshop, attendees will receive a document and will need to convert it into another type of document, considering audience and purpose.  In the CREAC session, attendees will receive some canned legal research for a fictional client, be asked a question, and be required to write an internal office memo analyzing the client’s problem objectively.
3:45 Break
4:00 Persuasive Writing Exercise (Jack and the Beanstalk) 
David Spratt

This highly interactive group exercise will teach attendees the importance of persuasive characterization and fact emphasis. Participants will be given a fact pattern, which they will need to read, and then will be broken into groups representing either Jack or the Giant.  Groups will need to select facts that can be persuasively characterized and emphasized.  A full group discussion of how each side could have characterized and used the same facts persuasively will conclude the exercise.
4:30 Small World/Lasagna 
David Spratt

This humorous and helpful session will end the day by reinforcing the CREAC format and organizational writing strategies, such as roadmaps and transitions.  Concepts covered include the following: context paragraphs, headings and subheadings, roadmaps, umbrella sections, conclusion sections, and thesis sentences.
5:00 Reception

Day Two:  Friday, April 29

8:30 Ethical Considerations in Legal Writing 
Tom Spahn

This session will address the ethics implications of legal writing content and style.  It will first focus on lawyers' possible duty to disclose bad facts and bad law, and then cover the ethics rules prohibiting false statements to the court and others.  The session will then turn to legal writing style, including the difference between ethics and professionalism and the rules governing lawyers' criticism of judges.
9:30 Break
9:45 Break-out Sessions for Individual Work Review 
Various Faculty

In these sessions, held in four different rooms and led by practicing attorneys and/or professors, attendees will receive one-on-one and group feedback on small documents that they have written and would like to review.  Attendees will self-select which documents to bring to the session and will be told to redact any confidential information from the documents.
11:00 Break
11:15 Break-out Sessions for Individual Work Review (continued) 
12:15 Know Your Demons” Break-Out Tables 
Various Faculty

This session will have several tables in one room in which certain topics or problem areas (i.e., demons) are addressed:  punctuation, editing, proofreading, and word choice.  Attendees will be able to choose which topic(s) they would like additional instruction on.  Each table will also have handouts and resources pertaining to that particular demon.
1:15 Adjourn



Professor David H. Spratt, American University Washington College of Law / Washington, DC

Professor David H. Spratt is a Legal Rhetoric Instructor at the American University, Washington College of Law.  He has also taught Legal Writing and Research at the George Washington University School of Law, Legal Analysis and Writing at Concord School of Law, and Legal Methods at the Washington College of Law.  Professor Spratt is the immediate past chair of the Virginia Bar Association, Domestic Relations Section and the Northern Virginia Regional Advisory Committee. In 2001, He was a founding partner of Schwartz & Spratt, PLC, a family law firm in Fairfax. He received a B.A. degree in Government and Psychology from The College of William and Mary and graduated summa cum laude from the American University, Washington College of Law.


Professor David H. Spratt, American University Washington College of Law / Washington, DC
Hon. Elizabeth B. Lacy, Virginia Supreme Court / Richmond
Hon. Pamela Sargent, Magistrate Judge, Western District of Virginia / Abingdon
Professor Elizabeth Earle Beske, American University Washington College of Law / Washington, DC
Professor Paul Figley, American University Washington College of Law / Washington, DC
Professor Elizabeth Keith, American University Washington College of Law / Washington, DC
Professor James E. Moliterno, Washington and Lee University School of Law / Lexington
Professor Heather E. Ridenour, American University Washington College of Law / Washington, DC
Professor Teresa Godwin Phelps, American University Washington College of Law / Washington, DC
D. Alan Rudlin, Hunton & Williams / Richmond
Tom Spahn, McGuireWoods / McLean

Locations, Dates and Fees


$350 regular registration.  (Fee includes the seminar, printed materials, breakfast on April 28 and 29, lunch on April 28, and a reception on April 28).


Washington, DC / Thursday and Friday, April 28 and 29
American University Washington College of Law (Venue Website / Google Map)
4300 Nebraska Ave. NW

**Exact directions for registration on April 28 and information on parking will be emailed to registrants.

Overnight lodging is not provided as part of this seminar.  For a listing of some nearby lodging options, please go to

A special 15% discount and free shipping on Virginia CLE®–published books will be available for purchases made at the seminar site.

Cancellation/transfer requests for the seminar will be honored until 5:00 p.m. the DAY BEFORE the program; for cancellations made after April 15, however, a $100 cancellation fee will be charged.

If you have a disability that requires special accommodation, please contact Virginia CLE® well in advance of the program date.

Private recording of this program is prohibited.

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