“Employers are looking for writing ability and coherent analysis
in writing, in addition to good overall grades,” she explained. Most of our
DePaul College of Law alumni would agree, along with a number of surveys of
lawyers who hire law graduates.
Thrower is the director of DePaul’s Legal Analysis, Research
& Communication (LARC) program. An eastcoast native, Thrower taught at
American University Washington College of Law and George Washington University
Law School before dedicating more than a decade to overseeing DePaul’s legal
writing program. At the College of Law, she works alongside Associate Director
Martha Pagliari (JD ’84) to help students enrich their communication skills and
The LARC experience
The College of Law’s comprehensive four-semester LARC curriculum
establishes a set of tools for students to hone legal thought and expression
throughout law school. The LARC program recognizes that writing in law school needs
to be progressive and practiced regularly, with lots of feedback along the way.
LARC I focuses on the foundational skills of synthesis, analysis,
written communication and plain-language drafting during the students’ first
semester. LARC II, taken in the second semester of the first year, expands upon
this initial instruction and includes research skills and strategy, persuasive
writing at the trial court level and reporting orally to a supervising
attorney. Both require five major writing projects, as well as a number of
The program also aligns with the College of Law’s certificate
programs by offering first-year writing sections in several concentrations. The
same skills are learned, but in the context of an area in which the student is
particularly interested–including intellectual property, family law, and public
LARC III prompts students to hone their persuasive writing
and oral advocacy skills. Students learn to write for the audience of a judge
as opposed to supervising attorney or client, and briefs are developed and
revised according to several rounds of feedback. Students present in a series
of oral arguments before their professor, the first being a trial level motion.
The last week of LARC III features an argument on an appellate
brief, for which instructors assemble a panel to replicate an appellate court argument.
“It’s far more formal and it’s a big deal to students—it always has been,”
Third-year student Jennifer James agrees. “The final oral argument
created an opportunity for me to develop the critical skill of oral advocacy,”
she said. “It gave me a chance to take my culminated work throughout the semester
and present my argument in a real simulation, including a panel of expert
Grace Barsanti, also a third-year student, echoes her sentiments.
“Had I not done an oral argument in LARC III, I might not have realized that I
really love litigation,” she said. “It was really refreshing to be able to see where all the
hard work we put into our writing assignments could actually lead, and it put
into perspective what we were researching and writing about.”
Not only are students required to take LARC I, II and III, they
also must take an upper-level writing requirement, which allows students to dig
deeper into different kinds of writing, including legal drafting or judicial or scholarly
Practicing lawyers in a leading role
For LARC III and Legal Drafting, DePaul Law takes advantage
of the talents of Chicago lawyers in a wide variety of practice areas. Students
can take a course in patent law drafting or matrimonial law, for example, and
receive guidance from experienced and practicing attorneys.
“We are always looking to have a robust pool of available adjunct
professors,” Thrower said. “We like for that pool to be varied with respect to
background, because we have a lot of disparate needs, both for LARC III and drafting.
Martha also practiced in the city and we draw on the fantastic set of contacts
Pagliari, who was previously a partner at Cassiday Schade
& Gloor in Chicago, has a background in civil litigation, concentrating in
medical malpractice, products liability and employment law. From 2008 until 2014, Pagliari
was appointed by the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts, an arm of
the Illinois Supreme Court, as professor-reporter for its Illinois Judicial
Conference Study Committee on Complex Litigation, which made recommendations to
the Illinois Supreme Court with regard to successful practices for managing
complex civil and criminal litigation.
The cache of adjuncts—sometimes up to 60—includes practicing
lawyers from firms of all sizes, including sole practitioners and government
lawyers. Recent hires include Shankar Ramamurthy, the assistant regional counsel
for Health and Human Services and Lisa Hugé (MA ’08), a director of the Cook
County Forest Preserve. Thrower says this range of practice areas helps accommodate
changes and trends in the marketplace.
“We have many voices adding to the conversation on what
young lawyers need when they go off to practice.” The adjunct line-up showcases
the strength of the DePaul College of Law community. Alumni, including personal
injury lawyer Vince Browne (JD ’97), Illinois Appellate Court Clerk Natalie
Carlomango (JD ’98), and civil defense litigator Joe Comer (JD ’10) routinely teach these
The LARC experience emphasizes personal feedback. LARC
instructors make a point to offer office hours at times when students are not
in class. Instructors carry through with mandatory conferences during all three
semesters and drafting, meeting with students one-on one to discuss everything
from works in progress to technical questions like citations.
“From what I can tell from my national colleagues, DePaul Law
offers oodles more teacher access to students, both informally through office
hours and through structured time in the conferences,” said Thrower. “This is
something we were really intentional about when I came in and restructured the
curriculum to make sure that we were embedding these kinds of conferences into
every single semester and every LARC course.”
Jennifer Rosato Perea, Dean of the College of Law and long-time
proponent of writing across the curriculum, agrees: “the LARC program is
distinctive in its comprehensiveness to ensure that students ‘exercise’ their
writing muscle throughout law school, in its incremental building of skills to
instill confidence, and its variety of offerings by both experienced instructors and
Prepared (and confident) to enter the real world of practice
Thrower says students tend to realize the benefit of the program
when they go out into the world. Many students find that firms are
incorporating time pressured writing projects as part of the interview, and they are
ready for them because of their LARC experiences. Thrower believes they’re also
more prepared for the performance piece of the bar exam (the MPT).
“It makes sense to me to let students practice while they’re
still in school,” she said.
For example, several years ago, Thrower introduced a short
capstone exercise for LARC I that gently removes the training wheels for
students to realize their own progress and autonomy in writing and legal analysis. Through
this exercise, she witnessed a positive response from students as well as a
swell of confidence.
Much of the gratification for her and other LARC teachers
comes over time. “The gratification comes as students practice their skills in
the classroom, gain confidence in themselves, and then are able to excel in
hands-on experiences like externships and clinics. Students learn a bucket from
us and their employers recognize it.”