If you were to write a youth book on how to play baseball, or an adult romance novel, your “audience” would be easy to identify. In the first example, you would be writing for a 7-11 year old age group; all readers would be interested in baseball; and they would be, say, beginner to intermediate level of ability and sophistication in the sport. In the second example, you could Google the demographics of who buys romance novels and have a pretty good idea of who might buy your book. Audience identification is critical whenever you write, and that’s the case when you write the answers to your law school writing test questions.
When you write the answer to a question on a law school essay exam, your audience is fictitious. Think of your audience (reader) as an informed attorney or colleague (law student) who is quite familiar with the nature and purpose of law in general; who has read the fact pattern; and that he has a passing familiarity with the subject’s law (torts or contracts, for example), but needs to be reminded of the precise rules of the law. Then proceed as if you were explaining the situation to that person.
For example, that person would not need to read that hunting knives often have sharp edges, that if a person is the manager of a grocery store, it can be assumed that she is the person who should be in charge of the store, or There is a difference between tortuous aggression and criminal aggression in that the latter is punishable by imprisonment.
Also, because the fictional reader has read the fact pattern, it is not necessary to repeat sections or sentences of the question. In other words, if the question includes: “When Mr. Slocum entered the airport, he noticed the aroma of something burning, and this immediately caused him concern” … then there is no need to include in your essay, “When the Mr. Slocum walked into the airport and noticed the scent of something burning, and this immediately caused him concern. ” (Rather, you can refer to Slocum’s location, refer to scent, or refer to Slocum’s concern, if these are key facts in your argument, you don’t need to repeat what the reader just read in the question.)
Although every step of your legal analysis should be in the rehearsal, it is important not to waste your limited time explaining what your audience is expected to know.
Now let’s take a look at the “real” audience: your teacher. Always write with your teacher in mind. In general, the hallmarks of an “A” grade response include: identification of all problems, significant attention to “gray areas”, incorporation of higher level argumentation techniques (example: use of “slippery slope” argument ), integration of the legal principles and facts of the hypothetical with common sense notions, and political support for an adopted position.
However, teachers differ in what they consider “A” grade material. Therefore, it is very important to obtain not only the questions from the previous exam that your teacher has taken, but also, if available, their examples of quality answers. You should study these answers carefully, because there you will find the qualities that your teacher rewards with high marks.
You should also discuss with your teachers what they are looking for in your test answers during office visits. You will also get quite a bit of this information during class, be sure to put it in your notes! Do this with each of your teachers to find out what to expect from a real test. Whatever you discover, that’s what you should practice! Then incorporate your teachers’ suggestions into your practice test answers.
The audience matters in everything you write … and the audience you write for when you write the answers to the law school writing test questions is likely to be a determining factor in the grade you receive.