Georgia State Law emphasizes the importance of training students the foundational skills they need to be prepared for practice. Students take part in the Lawyering: Foundations program their first year, learning legal analysis and writing. The program’s success is built on the real-world experience brought by faculty members such as senior lecturer of law Windsor Adams.
Writing came naturally to Adams, who studied history while pursuing her bachelor’s degree, “I really enjoyed the practice of not just making an argument, but also supporting it,” she said.
After earning her J.D. from Emory University, she clerked in the Northern District of Georgia before going into private practice and specializing in employment law, which allowed her to further her research and writing skills.
As she became more senior in the firm, she started teaching new associates the skills to make them more effective writers. This eventually led to her transition in joining the faculty at Georgia State Law in 2012.
Adams is with her students for the year-long Lawyering Foundations course, covering legal analysis, legal writing, and oral advocacy. Ultimately, the goal is to teach the students how to become better advocates, which includes learning how to write for your audience.
“One of the hardest things to get used to as a new attorney is getting feedback from other attorneys on your writing,” Adams said. “Every day your writing is going to have a new audience, so not being attached to the way you would write it and instead knowing how your audience wants you to write is a really important skill.”
Along with writing and legal analysis, Adams believes it is important to teach students about the innovative artificial intelligence tools that are currently changing the practice of law. Adams and professor Trisha Kanan have focused their research over the past several years on exploring artificial intelligence tools that impact legal writing and analysis. Because many of these tools directly affect new lawyers, especially tools that purport to automate legal research or generate legal memoranda, Adams and Kanan started introducing a subset of them into their Lawyering Foundations classes. Adams and Kanan also applied their AI expertise to develop a week-long, practice-based e-discovery module for Civil Procedure II with Professor Andi Curcio.
“Technology is going to be more and more available to new lawyers,” Adams said. “We are working to teach College of Law students how to look at machine-generated work product and be discerning about it. Research may be auto-generated in the future, but our students are the ones who must figure out which cases are actually helpful for the client and which ones to use in the brief.”
Although Adams’ day-to-day focus may be teaching first-years the foundational skills they need to become strong legal analysts and writers, she says a side benefit of Lawyering: Foundations is the relationship she develops with each of her students over their full year together.
“In my time at Georgia State, I have been pleasantly surprised by how dedicated the faculty and staff is to graduating great people, not just great lawyers.”
Written by Mara Thompson