How to improve writing???

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How to improve writing???

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Dec 20, 2017 8:57 am

Hi all-
Long story short, I recently graduated and got a first job but I am having a nervous break down because its 1) a big law firm and 2) my writing is BAD.

I dont even know how I got this job. The firm needed to replace someone immediately and they chose me (why? I dont know). I dont have good grades, my past summer internships were neither prestigious nor attractive. I am just very lucky to have this position.

I did send them my writing samples... Thus, their interview questions focused mainly on how well I could write. I did tell them I have a lot of room for an improvement... but eventually explained I wrote a couple of memos during my internships (although it was blooded in red). Now I regret not telling them that I suck in writing...!

Should I reject the offer??
How can i improve my writing... :(
This is a sincere question...please help!

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Re: How to improve writing???

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Dec 20, 2017 9:57 am

Assuming this not a joke, I’d strong recommend Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace. It’s the best writing book I’ve ever encountered. I’m a 6th year associate at a V20, and it’s helped me become a better legal writer. It was recommended to me as a partner when I was a first year associate.

If you have not already, you should also read Elements of Style. It’s the style book the people you worke with will most often have read, and you should be able to get through it in a day. It it’s a good preface to Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace. Element’s main message is concision and clarity of sentences, while Style covers more ground.

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Re: How to improve writing???

Postby mcmand » Wed Dec 20, 2017 10:07 am

You will be fine. Do not self destruct. You can improve your writing. I second the above poster about Style. It's a great tool.

The only way to improve writing is practice. Until you start the job, practice writing. Write memos about weird legal issues or something.
Last edited by mcmand on Mon Jan 29, 2018 6:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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downing

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Re: How to improve writing???

Postby downing » Wed Dec 20, 2017 10:46 am

Love this. Just added Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace to my Amazon wish list. Improving one's writing is a constant process.

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Re: How to improve writing???

Postby 1styearlateral » Wed Dec 20, 2017 10:57 am

Tbh, good writing can't really be learned by reading a book (although I'm sure it's a good one), and must be refined over years of practice. Your only shot of becoming a good writer now is to go back in time to the 7th grade and start good habits then.

You'll find out, though, that most lawyers are incredibly bad writers, which is ironic given the fact that most lawyering requires some sort of drafting. The good news is you'll be a much better writer by year 5. I wouldn't sweat it.

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Re: How to improve writing???

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Dec 20, 2017 1:31 pm

I'm still bad. But writing more is the only way to get better. Those style guides are of limited value since they mostly focus on small nits. You should absolutely perfect those aspects of writing. But if you are really bad you'll need to focus on structure. Especially as a junior associate because someone senior is going to edit your stuff to meet their person style, but it's harder to fix bad structure.

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Re: How to improve writing???

Postby mcmand » Wed Dec 20, 2017 1:37 pm

I've found outlining anything I'm going to write before I start drafting is very helpful. Yes it takes more time, but being forced to structurally organize the draft before actually drafting it helps me.

When I finally write it, with the outline, I discover the gaps and errors from my outline. It helps a lot.
Last edited by mcmand on Mon Jan 29, 2018 6:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: How to improve writing???

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Dec 20, 2017 2:55 pm

Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace is about much more than small nits. It’s about how to stucture whole paragraphs and documents and how best to order ideas to improve comprehension. The section on “Characters” is particularly good. The reason I prefer it to other style books is that it goes much beyond small bits and the sentence level. It’s actually the perfect style book for lawyers, in my opinion.

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Re: How to improve writing???

Postby albanach » Wed Dec 20, 2017 3:04 pm

What sort of writing are you doing?

Memos - trust me, everyone in big law is bad (or so it seems from the work product). Use the style guides mentioned above and pay attention to the corrections you make and those you receive from associates and partners.

Filings - copy the style your partners use. You can find their prior filings. Don't be surprised when they correct their own writing.

Contracts - read Ken Adams' Manual of Style

1styearlateral

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Re: How to improve writing???

Postby 1styearlateral » Wed Dec 20, 2017 3:31 pm

albanach wrote:Don't be surprised when they correct their own writing.

This always cracks me up.

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Re: How to improve writing???

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Dec 20, 2017 5:13 pm

Op here.
The partner ill be working for graduated no.1 from top law school, was in a law journal, won bunch of writing competitions, etc...
Thats also why im freaking out.

Ill check out the books mentioned here. Thanks so much everyone. Guess ill take the job..

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Re: How to improve writing???

Postby FascinatedWanderer » Wed Dec 20, 2017 5:34 pm

Mostly I’ve found that people who are poor writers just didn’t read much quality writing during their lives. Writing and style primers can make this type of person go from a poor writer to a mediocre one, but as far as becoming a good writer, the ship has usually sailed.

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Re: How to improve writing???

Postby mcmand » Wed Dec 20, 2017 6:39 pm

FascinatedWanderer wrote:Mostly I’ve found that people who are poor writers just didn’t read much quality writing during their lives. Writing and style primers can make this type of person go from a poor writer to a mediocre one, but as far as becoming a good writer, the ship has usually sailed.


You don't think it can be solved by just reading more quality writing now and practicing?

Also, my understanding is that Sotomayor struggled with writing and that's why she was no-offered by Paul Weiss after her 2L SA. She managed to turn things around. (Disclaimer: this is the anecdote of all anecdotes, obviously.)
Last edited by mcmand on Mon Jan 29, 2018 6:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.

1styearlateral

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Re: How to improve writing???

Postby 1styearlateral » Wed Dec 20, 2017 6:53 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Op here.
The partner ill be working for graduated no.1 from top law school, was in a law journal, won bunch of writing competitions, etc...
Thats also why im freaking out.

Ill check out the books mentioned here. Thanks so much everyone. Guess ill take the job..

Just try to absorb as much as you can from this person.

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Re: How to improve writing???

Postby FascinatedWanderer » Wed Dec 20, 2017 9:10 pm

mcmand wrote:
FascinatedWanderer wrote:Mostly I’ve found that people who are poor writers just didn’t read much quality writing during their lives. Writing and style primers can make this type of person go from a poor writer to a mediocre one, but as far as becoming a good writer, the ship has usually sailed.


You don't think it can be solved by just reading more quality writing now and practicing?

Also, my understanding is that Sotomayor struggled with writing and that's why she was no-offered by Paul Weiss after her 2L SA. She managed to turn things around. (Disclaimer: this is the anecdote of all anecdotes, obviously.)


That may well be true, I have no idea. In any event, I don't think even today Sotomayor is particularly good writer. She's passable certainly, but I wouldn't call her good by any stretch.

The bottom line is "good legal writing" isn't a thing. There's good writing, period. And virtually all good writers grew up reading a lot of other good writers. You can patch the grammatical holes and stuff via primers and books (and some of them are quite good-- I enjoy many myself) but I stand by my original statement.

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A. Nony Mouse

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Re: How to improve writing???

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Wed Dec 20, 2017 9:11 pm

Writing is a skill. Like any skill, it can be learned.

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Re: How to improve writing???

Postby FascinatedWanderer » Wed Dec 20, 2017 9:18 pm

A. Nony Mouse wrote:Writing is a skill. Like any skill, it can be learned.


Sure, and just like any skill, if you only start to practice it once you're 25 or 26, chances are you won't get objectively good at it. Better, certainly.

(And better is definitely worth striving for.)

ETA Point Taken and Point Made by Guberman are both excellent. As are the Garner books, and the book on opinion writing by Aldisert.

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Re: How to improve writing???

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Wed Dec 20, 2017 9:20 pm

FascinatedWanderer wrote:
A. Nony Mouse wrote:Writing is a skill. Like any skill, it can be learned.


Sure, and just like any skill, if you only start to practice it once you're 25 or 26, chances are you won't get objectively good at it. Better, certainly.

(And better is definitely worth striving for.)

There's a lot of time between 25-26 and death. You can get good at it.

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Re: How to improve writing???

Postby Jchance » Wed Dec 20, 2017 10:15 pm

1styearlateral wrote:
albanach wrote:Don't be surprised when they correct their own writing.

This always cracks me up.


Even partners need edits/comments to show the client that they billed for "something."

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Re: How to improve writing???

Postby FascinatedWanderer » Thu Dec 21, 2017 12:13 am

A. Nony Mouse wrote:
FascinatedWanderer wrote:
A. Nony Mouse wrote:Writing is a skill. Like any skill, it can be learned.


Sure, and just like any skill, if you only start to practice it once you're 25 or 26, chances are you won't get objectively good at it. Better, certainly.

(And better is definitely worth striving for.)

There's a lot of time between 25-26 and death. You can get good at it.


The point is it happens by osmosis. You subconsciously pick up good style choices and a sense of structure by reading thousands of pages of quality writing over many, many years. If you start that process post-law school, you'll be irretrievably behind the ball, no matter how many how-to books you read.

I take it you don't see it that way, in which case we'll agree to disagree and move on. I'll add one further thing-: OP, absolutely go back and read the Green Bag selections of the best legal writing of the year.

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Re: How to improve writing???

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Dec 21, 2017 12:17 am

I'm junior, but I started receiving positive feedback after I was told to write briefs such that the judge could read just the first sentence of every paragraph and understand all of my arguments.

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Re: How to improve writing???

Postby k5220 » Thu Dec 21, 2017 12:21 am

I don't understand the pessimism here -- writing is definitely a skill you can work on and get better at.

For legal writing in particular, I really like Bryan Garner's advice. He does shorter articles for the ABA Journal that are pretty helpful (e.g. http://www.abajournal.com/magazine/arti ... al_writing more at: http://www.abajournal.com/topic/bryan_garner_on_words )

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Re: How to improve writing???

Postby lolwat » Thu Dec 21, 2017 2:18 am

FascinatedWanderer wrote:
A. Nony Mouse wrote:
FascinatedWanderer wrote:
A. Nony Mouse wrote:Writing is a skill. Like any skill, it can be learned.


Sure, and just like any skill, if you only start to practice it once you're 25 or 26, chances are you won't get objectively good at it. Better, certainly.

(And better is definitely worth striving for.)

There's a lot of time between 25-26 and death. You can get good at it.


The point is it happens by osmosis. You subconsciously pick up good style choices and a sense of structure by reading thousands of pages of quality writing over many, many years. If you start that process post-law school, you'll be irretrievably behind the ball, no matter how many how-to books you read.

I take it you don't see it that way, in which case we'll agree to disagree and move on. I'll add one further thing-: OP, absolutely go back and read the Green Bag selections of the best legal writing of the year.


I definitely think anyone can get objectively good at writing as long as they're open to it and actively try to learn. (Reading books can only get you so far, though; you have to also learn by doing.)

I also think most people don't get the opportunity to write enough to become good at it. Most examples of really good legal writing comes from people that do primarily law-and-motion or appellate work. Writing is basically their career. The average litigator doesn't do that much writing, and certainly the ones I work with don't seem to really TRY to improve upon their writing, either. They just want to get a brief done as quickly as possible where the legal and factual analysis are solid; the writing can just simply be "fine."

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Re: How to improve writing???

Postby whats an updog » Thu Dec 21, 2017 2:57 am

IMO good legal writing should be formulaic. "This is true, this is true, so this is true." It should be obvious to the reader. This is what IRAC/CRAC/CREAC are all trying to accomplish, but it's helpful to keep the big picture in mind.

It also takes a lot of hard work and editing. Especially when you're just deciding you want to improve. Go back through your work on screen, edit, print it out, read it out loud, make changes, read through it again, etc. In practice, it is helpful to ask for feedback or if your supervisors don't have time for that, to look at the final product versus what you turned in initially and compare what changes were made. This may give you an idea of how to make your work better. As others said, it is essential to start with precedent (a copy of a similar piece of writing that your supervisor or someone else has already done).

I agree with the people who say that it is a process and takes time. It is doable, it just takes effort and time. I think I am a passable writer, but every day that I'm actively working on it, I get a little better.

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Re: How to improve writing???

Postby lolwat » Thu Dec 21, 2017 3:36 am

whats an updog wrote:IMO good legal writing should be formulaic. "This is true, this is true, so this is true." It should be obvious to the reader. This is what IRAC/CRAC/CREAC are all trying to accomplish, but it's helpful to keep the big picture in mind.


I think there's a difference between good and great legal writing. Certainly, good legal writing is formulaic--clear and concise, solid analysis, easy to follow. But great legal writing goes above and beyond that. Of course, it's still clear and concise, it still contains solid analysis, and it's still easy to follow. But it also engages the reader and, more importantly, make them WANT to rule in your favor.

That's why there's often so much work on the introduction of a brief (particularly in appellate writing), even though it's only going to be a page or two.



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