Cooley professor to undertake ground-breaking research

LANSING, MI --Thomas M. Cooley Law School Assistant Professor Christopher R. Trudeau, who teaches research and writing at Cooley's Lansing campus, has been awarded a 2010 Research Grant of $5,000 by the Legal Writing Institute (LWI) and the Association of Legal Writing Directors (ALWD.) The grant will allow Trudeau to complete his proposed study, Plain English From A Client's Perspective: An Empirical Study of Client Preferences in Legal Writing, during the next year.

"While a lot has been written about judges' preferences in legal writing, very little research has been done on client preferences in legal writing," Trudeau explained.

"Ultimately, as attorneys, we are serving our clients," he said. "Our goal is to explain legal options to our clients in a way they can understand, not in a way that makes them feel confused or unsure about their legal affairs. This study will shed light on a timeless communication problem and give attorneys an inside look at the true preferences of their clients when it comes to legal communication."

For the study, Trudeau will survey approximately 750 people, ranging from clients of large law firms to pro bono clinics, who have received legal counsel on all types of issues from litigation to estate planning. The survey will seek input on a variety of issues about legal writing and will segment clients into demographic categories based on the type of legal services received as well as the client's level of education and income.

The survey also will test clients' comprehension of commonly used legal terms (e.g. summary disposition) and assess how often clients read information from their attorneys as well as how they would like legal information conveyed to them. Trudeau plans to complete the study and summarize the findings by May 2011.

The grant is funded by the LWI, ALWD and LexisNexis. Each year LWI and ALWD award several research grants in support of professional development among legal research and writing professionals. Trudeau was one of the seven recipients selected from 21 applications for a 2010 grant.

Trudeau joined Cooley in 2005, where he now teaches research and writing, administers Cooley's scholarly writing program and is the assistant faculty advisor for both of Cooley's scholarly publications - the Thomas M. Cooley Journal of Practical & Clinical Law and the Thomas M. Cooley Law Review. He earned a bachelor's degree from Michigan State University and a juris doctor from Cooley Law School.

Published: Thu, Apr 29, 2010