Teaching legal writing skills in the South African LLB curriculum : the role of the writing consultant
CITATION: Louw, C.H. & Broodryk, T. 2016. Teaching legal writing skills in the South African LLB curriculum: The role of the writing consultant. Stellenbosch Law Review, 27(3):535-553.
The original publication is available at https://journals.co.za/content/journal/jlc_slr
Lately, the South African LLB degree has been the topic of considerable debate. It is becoming increasingly apparent and problematic that LLB graduates are not sufficiently equipped with the requisite critical thinking, numeracy and writing skills to enable them to make a smooth transition into the legal profession. Law schools are therefore under increasing pressure to implement methods to develop and improve these skills. This article briefly discusses the writing strategy (the “Strategy”) implemented by the Faculty of Law (the “Faculty”) at Stellenbosch University, with its primary aim of establishing a coordinated approach to the development of research and both generic and specific writing skills within the LLB programme as an integral part of legal education in the Faculty. A key component of the Strategy, and the focus of this article, is the Faculty’s Writing Consultants (the “Consultants”). The Faculty currently employs three full time Consultants who render daily writing-related assistance to the Faculty’s students. The writing-related assistance takes place in the form of a one hour, one-on-one contact session. This article evaluates the consultancy service as a key component of the Strategy, especially taking into account the recent outcomes-based evaluation conducted in respect of the Strategy and specifically the benefits associated with conducting individualised consultations. These benefits include, but are not limited to, quality interaction between Consultants and students during which consultations students can explore new ideas or expand on their current ideas that might be somewhat stilted. Muriel Harris calls this the “ideal teaching situation” where Consultants act as “helpers and coaches, not graders”. A further benefit lies in the fact that student strengths and weaknesses can be properly addressed in one-on-one consultations without the competition of other students, as is the case in the traditional lecturer-class set-up. Ultimately, the consultations aim to enhance students’ understanding of writing as a process, which “improves and strengthens both the paper and the writer”. The article posits certain recommendations regarding the role of the Consultants in order to contribute to the further development and improvement of the Strategy. It concludes by suggesting that implementing a Consultant-component may be a good choice for faculties that are insufficiently resourced to implement a comprehensive writing-across-the-curriculum strategy.