The Lawyer's Guide to Writing Well

The Lawyer's Guide to Writing Well

The Lawyer's Guide to Writing Well

The Lawyer's Guide to Writing Well

Synopsis

This eminently practical volume demystifies legal writing, outlines the causes and consequences of bad writing, and prescribes straightforward, easy-to-apply remedies that will make your writing readable. Complete with usage notes that address lawyers' most common errors, this well-organized book is both an invaluable tool for practicing lawyers and a sensible grounding for law students. This much-revised second edition contains a set of editing exercises (and a suggested revision key with explanations) to test your skill. This book is a definitive guide to becoming a better writer--and a better lawyer.

Excerpt

The first edition of this book was written in 1988, at a time when many critics were bemoaning the state of legal writing but few were doing anything about it. Between October 1987 and June 1988, we asked 650 people familiar with legal writing—practicing lawyers, judges, professors, writing instructors, and journalists who report on legal topics— what bothered them most about the way lawyers write. We do not pretend that our survey was scientific: We sent a four-page questionnaire to people listed on our Rolodexes. As journalists we had covered law and the legal profession since the early 1970s for a variety of news media, and our list included thoughtful lawyers and writers in half the states and every major city; most major law firms, scores of smaller firms, and courts; law schools; and newspapers, magazines, and broadcast stations across the country. the answers from 300 respondents inform a portion of this book. People named in the text but not identified in the notes were respondents and are identified in the acknowledgments. Unattributed statements about what lawyers, judges, professors, writing instructors, and journalists “think,” “feel,” or “believe” are drawn from the statements of these respondents, as are some of the displayed quotations.

In the dozen years since the first edition appeared, there have been vast changes in the technology of communications—the ways in which lawyers produce and distribute their letters, memoranda, briefs, and other documents. in the late 1980s, desktop computers were beginning to find their way into lawyers’ offices, but probably few lawyers used them regularly or proficiently. (Indeed, lawyers at some firms told us they were forbidden to touch a computer; managing partners in those days viewed the “word processor” as a tool for secretaries and typists, not professionals.) By today’s standards, early desktop computers were . . .

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