New Instructors Teach Legal Writing and Professional Development
Brooklyn Law School's highly-acclaimed Legal Writing Program celebrated its 25th anniversary last spring. The program continues to attract extremely talented instructors, three of whom joined the Law School in the Fall 2007 semester.
Professor Cynthia Godsoe brings prior teaching experience from Fordham University School of Law, where she taught legal writing as an adjunct. In addition to the individual graded assignments in her courses, she asks students to collaborate on numerous ungraded exercises in class, which she says provide the necessary practice it takes to improve. An online class discussion board also spurs class participation. "I want them to realize they can help each other, while also developing strong individual research and writing skills," she notes. Prior to coming to Brooklyn Law School, Godsoe worked with several nonprofit legal organizations dedicated to children's rights: She was an appellate attorney at the Children's Law Center, Advocates for Children of New York, the Legal Aid Society's Juvenile Rights Division in New York, and the Child Care Law Center in San Francisco. After graduating from Harvard Law School, she was a Skadden Public Interest Fellow, and she clerked for Judge Edward R. Korman in the Eastern District of New York, who is vice chair of Brooklyn Law School's Board of Trustees and a member of the Class of 1966.
Godsoe has published several articles that focus on children's advocacy issues, juvenile justice and education law. She also currently serves as secretary of the Juvenile Justice Committee of the New York City Bar, and she serves on the board of a local school for children with autism. With her experience in the public interest sector, she joined the faculty committee for the Edward V. Sparer Public Interest Law Fellowship Program at the Law School.
Professor Ines McGillion joined the faculty full-time after teaching legal writing at the Law School as an adjunct while working as a litigation associate at Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson in New York. A graduate of Georgetown University Law Center, McGillion relishes the close interaction that writing instructors have with their students. "That's what this job is all about," she says.
Her belief in the importance of writing grew from her experience as a practicing lawyer and as a law clerk for both a federal judge in the Southern District of New York and a court of appeals judge on the Second Circuit. "An attorney can be a very powerful voice for her clients," she observes. "Developing that voice through writing is an important responsibility." McGillion says her approach to teaching legal writing is "gentle" but also stresses the need for precision and accuracy. Her class is a place where students get to know each other. "I try to foster a collegial atmosphere in which students can help each other learn rather than compete," she says.
Professor Estella Schoen, like her fellow new writing instructors, came to the Law School after private practice and a clerkship with a federal judge, both of which she says created a dedication to helping others with writing. Schoen, who graduated from the University of Minnesota Law School, clerked for a judge in the Southern District of New York, then joined Patterson, Belknap, Webb & Tyler, where she practiced in the litigation department. She also worked at the Children's Law Center in Brooklyn, where she honed her writing skills doing appellate work. But she harbored another professional plan: "Teaching was always in the back of my mind," she says.
Schoen emphasizes practicality and the importance of feedback in her legal writing courses. "I try to convey that my assignments, which come from experience, ground my students in what they will be doing as lawyers," she relates. "As early as this summer, when they work for firms, they will be asked to write legal memos." Because busy partners will be their audience, she teaches the importance of clarity and logical organization, which make skimming and getting to the heart of the matter easier for the reader. Schoen plans to keep her own writing skills sharp by doing pro bono work. "Ultimately, successful legal writing is what prevails in court," she says. "I like to keep myself in the game."
Professor Denise Riebe, who teaches Advanced Professional Development, joined the Law School faculty after teaching at Duke University School of Law and the University of North Carolina School of Law. With a background in teaching legal analysis and writing, appellate practice, advanced legal analysis, and mediation courses, Riebe's scholarship focuses on law school pedagogy, bar success, and professional development. "It is a pleasure working with our bright and talented students to help them grow into legal professionals," she says of her first semester at BLS. "Educating law students is a high calling."
Her previous experience includes clerking with U.S. District Court Judge Robert H. Hall of the Northern District of Georgia and practicing law in Virginia and North Carolina, where she represented clients in federal court, state court, arbitration, and mediation. She also served as the director of a national bar review company and is the founder and owner of Pass the Bar!, a bar exam coaching and consulting company. In those capacities, Riebe has spent 16 years teaching students the skills they need to succeed on bar exams and well into their careers.