Monday, March 04, 2013

Write Well

You may hear stories of attorneys literally copying holdings from cases on Westlaw and pasting them into their briefs without a thought to Shepardize or Key Cite the case. You may think it's the kind of thing only an attorney like Lindsay Lohan's would do.

While sloppy decisions such as this may result from a lack of preparation and stretching one's self too thin, the issue could just as easily be the result of poor writing skills. If you do not really know how to write well, relying on the briefs of others may seem like a good idea.

Bryan Garner recently wrote on why attorneys do not write well. One factor he cites is the fact that law students are trained on legal writing in part by reading judicial opinions that are "poorly written, legalese-riddled [and] read like over-the-top Marx Brothers parodies of stiffness and hyperformality."

So, how to remedy the situation? Practice writing every chance you get. Ask others to proof read your work. Practice editing. Offer to proof read the work of others. If you find you have a knack for writing, reading others' work, particularly in an area of law with which you are less familiar, can help you learn when writing is unclear or imprecise. (Heck, you may feel that way most of the time when reading certain judicial opinions.) Check out a few books from the law library on the subject. Practice some more. (CALI password available here---must be logged in to the Moritz intranet to view.)

And for fun, check out this list of words that sound different than than their meanings would otherwise indicate. Learn it and make sure you choose the right word for the right occasion. h/t Josh and Chuck