Considerable research has now been undertaken into the development of different approaches to exploiting language corpora for pedagogic purposes in the context of ESP. The question of how language corpora might be utilized by students beyond the immediate language-teaching context is, however, one as yet seldom addressed in the literature. This study attempts to explore the relationship between student use of online corpus tools and academic and professional discourse practices in the context of a professional legal training course at The City University of Hong Kong. Students enrolled in this course were given instruction in how to consult an online concordancer as language support when completing their legal writing assignments. Drawing on narratives of student experience, and other informant data including detailed logs of searches and the outcomes of assessments of English language proficiency, the paper discusses the ways in which students make strategic use of the corpus tools provided to develop competence in writing for legal purposes. The paper concludes by appraising the potential of corpus-based methods as an affordance for studying the practice of Law, in particular as a means of enhancing the acquisition of professional expertise by novice lawyers.