Legal Writing in Africa

Since 2003, Professors Mimi Samuel and Laurel Currie Oates have provided training in clear and effective legal writing to hundreds of judges, magistrates, and attorneys in Eastern and Southern Africa. They have conducted these training sessions through a variety of governmental and non-profit organizations including the Office of the Inspector General in Uganda; the Judicial Studies Institute in Uganda; the International Law Institute in Uganda; the Association of Regional Magistrates of South Africa; the Law Society of South Africa; and the Office of Ombudsman in Botswana.

Moreover, they have been working with universities in the region to develop legal writing curricula within the law programs. In addition to conducting training sessions with individual universities, Professors Samuel and Oates and Janet Dickson have organized three  international conferences focusing on promoting the teaching of legal writing in Africa; the first was held in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2007,  the second was held in Pretoria, South Africa, in 2009, and the third was held outside of Durban, South Africa, in 2011.  These conferences attracted faculty members and bar association representatives from a number of African countries including Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Uganda, Malawi, Zambia, Nigeria, Ghana, Lesotho, and Ethiopia.

As the result of the Nairobi conference, the participants established an organization called APPEAL (Academics Promoting the Pedagogy of Effective Advocacy in Law), which brings together academics from the U.S. and from Africa to promote the teaching of legal writing. That organization has organized book drives to collect books for African law libraries, has raised funds to bring African faculty members to the Legal Writing Institute conferences, and continues to facilitate the exchange of information among U.S. and African faculty interested in legal writing and advocacy.

Legal Writing from a Global Perspective

A Legal Writing course is taught as part of the law school’s Global Justice Advocacy program in Johannesburg, South Africa.

This course focuses on writing clearly, concisely, and precisely in a variety of contexts and to a variety of audiences. Students work on drafting documents, including letters, memoranda, and affidavits, that relate to hypothetical problems, some of which are based on issues raised in the other courses offered in the program. At the outset of the course, students take a diagnostic exam to assess their facility with English grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure. While all students will work on the same assignments during the course, we will use the results of the diagnostic exam to provide individualized feedback to the course participants.