Faculty Scholarship

Document Type


Publication Date

January 2005


This article is based on a presentation that was first assembled for the Southeastern Regional Legal Writing Conference in September 2003. The theme of that conference was "The Basics and Beyond: Building Solid Skills on Flawed Foundations." As legal writing professions with nine years of teaching experience between us, we immediately honed in on "reading" as a core lawyering skill--though it is the one that seemed most flawed in the first-year legal writing class. We determined that case analysis, statute analysis, synthesis, and application were not possible unless students critically read the material with which they were working. Many students in our classes were not actively engaged in the material that they were reading. As we spoke with colleagues nationwide, we found this to be the case elsewhere as well. These anecdotal experiences reflect a nationwide trend in the decline in the numbers of adult literary readers in the United States. Over the past twenty years, literary reading has declined among all education levels and age groups, with the steepest decline among readers within the age group of 18- to 24-year-olds. The rate of decline for these young adult readers is 55% greater than those of the total adult population. Furthermore, the decline in reading correlates to an increase in the use of electronic media devices, including the Internet, video games, and other digital devices. This decline in interest in literary reading is consistent with the lack of critical active reading that we observed within our classes. Given the intended use of legal materials--for them to be understood, synthesized, and applied in legal memo format--a lack of cognitive process in reading has great implications. We decided to address them.

Publication Title

Willamette Law Review

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