Many law students are required to take first-year writing courses. With the increased emphasis in legal education on practical skills training (Sullivan et al. 2007), legal writing scholars have begun exploring how these writing courses equip students with practical skills (Felsenburg and Graham 2010; Cauthen 2010). However, these scholars have not explored how summer internships serve as opportunities for students to practice the skills they gained in the classroom. Following the lead of writing studies scholars who examine the transition from classroom and workplace writing (Russell and Fisher 2009; Devitt 2004, Wardle 2004; Winsor 1990), this study explores how the genres students learned in legal writing classroom prepared them for internship writing. This study reports results from interviews of eight students who completed 15 internships during the 2014 and 2015 summers. The main findings indicate that students who performed well in the legal writing course eventually served in litigation-based internships. These students perceived a high rate of transfer from classroom to workplace writing. By contrast, students who struggled learning the legal writing classroom genres eventually accepted non-litigation internships where their writing tasks bore little resemblance to those of the classroom. Tellingly, both groups of students were not trained or mentored on how to write during internships because they were expected to be strong writers already. Therefore, these findings suggest that legal writing scholars need to better prepare students who are not pursuing litigation careers or who accept non-litigation internships. This support is vital because students' future internship and career options were deeply connected to their performance in the legal writing course.



College and Department

Humanities; English



Date Submitted


Document Type





law students, legal writing, practical skills, internships, litigation, genres, training, mentorship, first-year legal writing course