5th Annual Legal Writing Workshop

MCLE Credits: 7.5
Ethics Credits Included: 1.0

Live on Site: Friday, April 24 / Washington, DC
Registration: 8:00 a.m.
Program: 8:30 a.m. - 5:15 p.m.
MCLE Credit: 7.5 (Ethics: 1.0)
Live-Interactive Credit: 7.5 Live Interactive MCLE Credit Symbol


Why Attend?

This workshop is an intensive legal writing course, facilitated by judges, legal rhetoric professors, and experienced attorneys. While not an advanced writing course, this workshop will serve as a basic refresher and is designed to make you a better and more confident legal writer.

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

Are the legal writing classes you took in law school the last writing training you experienced? Would you like an opportunity to study and improve your basic legal writing skills?

The workshop, which offers 7.5 hours of MCLE credits (including 1.0 hour of Ethics), will provide effective legal writing techniques and interactive class instruction to all participants.

The workshop will focus on the following:

  • Basic grammar and writing strategies
  • Understanding, and implementing, roadmaps and transitions
  • Tailoring your legal writing to your recipients and purpose
  • Ethical considerations and professionalism in legal writing
  • Effectively writing a discussion or argument section of a memo
  • The importance of persuasive characterization and fact emphasis
  • The differences between oral and written advocacy, and advice on to how to effectively engage in each

Plus, attendees will have the option to attend a breakout session focused on either litigation or transactional practice.

Ways to Save

Can't Attend?
E-mail distance_ed@vacle.org to be notified when/if this program is made available as an online or USB seminar.
E-mail publications@vacle.org to be notified when/if this program's seminar materials are made available for sale.



8:00 Registration
8:30 Effective Writing Strategies
David H. Spratt, Heather E. Ridenour

This interactive opening session will cover basic grammar and writing strategies and act as the foundation for the entire workshop. Topics discussed will include the following:  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.

10:15 Break
10:30 Tailoring Your Writing to Your Recipients and Purpose
David H. Spratt, Heather E. Ridenour

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.

11:15 Lunch (provided at the seminar)
11:30 Panel Discussion: Ethical Considerations and Professionalism in Legal Writing
John M. Bredehoft, L. Steven Emmert

This lunch 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.

12:30 Break
12:45 Organization and Rule Synthesis (CREAC)
David H. Spratt, Heather E. Ridenour

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.

1:45 Small World
David H. Spratt, Heather E. Ridenour

This humorous and helpful session will reinforce 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.

2:00 Break
2:10 Small-Group Sessions on Litigation or Transactional Practice (Attendees will choose which session to attend)
Program Faculty

In these sessions, held in different rooms and led by judges, practicing attorneys, and/or professors, attendees will receive practice tips and pointers from the group leaders and have the opportunity to ask specific questions concerning legal writing topics relevant to litigation or transactional practice, respectively. 

3:25 Break
3:40 Oral and Written Advocacy Roundtable 
Program Faculty

Program faculty will discuss the differences between oral and written advocacy and offer advice on how to effectively engage in each.     

4:20 Break
4:30 Persuasive Writing Exercise (Jack and the Beanstalk)
David H. Spratt, Heather E. Ridenour

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.

5:00 Closing Remarks: Promoting a Culture of Legal Writing Excellence in Virginia
Judge David W. Lannetti, Judge Mary Grace O’Brien
5:15 Adjourn



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

Professor David H. Spratt teaches Legal Rhetoric, Contracts, and Family Law Litigation and Practice 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 a 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 Spratt writes a regular column, “Writer’s Block,” for the Virginia Bar Association News Journal. In January 2013, Professor Spratt was appointed to the Virginia State Bar Section on Education of Lawyers Task Force on Legal Writing and currently serves as the Civil Reporter of Decisions for the Virginia Court of Appeals.


Hon. David W. Lannetti, Norfolk Circuit Court / Norfolk
Hon. Mary Grace O'Brien, Court of Appeals of Virginia / Manassas                          
John M. Bredehoft, Kaufman & Canoles / Norfolk
Andrea L. Bridgeman, Freddie Mac / McLean                            
L. Steven Emmert, Sykes, Bourdon, Ahern & Levy, PC / Virginia Beach
Heather E. Ridenour, American University Washington College of Law / Washington, DC
David H. Spratt, American University Washington College of Law / Washington, DC

Locations, Dates and Fees

LIVE REGISTRATION FEE (Lunch included) (All registrants will receive access to a complete set of downloadable e-book seminar materials.)

$299 regular registration (without printed materials).
$339 regular registration plus printed materials.

Limited space so register early!


Washington, DC / Friday, April 24
Claudio Grossman Hall
American University Washington College of Law (Venue Website / Google Map)
4300 Nebraska Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20016

The seminar will be held in the Claudio Grossman Hall.  General directions to American University Washington College of Law campus, guidance if taking the metro, and driving/parking information are available at:


Additional information and course instructions will be emailed to all attendees in advance.  The instructions will be sent to the email used for registration.

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

Lower Registration Fee and Greater Functionality with Downloadable E-Book Seminar Materials

ALL seminar registrants will receive access to a complete set of downloadable e-book seminar materials. E-book materials are searchable, easily accessible, and efficient to use.

When registering, please be sure to provide a legible, valid e-mail address to which Virginia CLE® can send a link to the e-book materials.

Printed Materials: You have the option of receiving a complete set of printed materials for a higher registration fee. Registrants who choose this option will receive printed materials at the program.

REGISTRATION DEADLINES: 5:00 p.m. on Monday, April 20, 2020, for registration received by mail, fax or phone; 11:59 p.m. on Monday, April 20, 2020, for online registration.


Cancellation/transfer requests will be honored until 5:00 p.m. the day preceding the seminar.

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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