What is your best legal-writing tip?

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bigben
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Re: What is your best legal-writing tip?

Postby bigben » Tue Feb 10, 2009 9:10 pm

My moment: "A-ha, this is not hard at all. It's just a question of who is willing to spend the most hours refining it. Fuck this."

HalfManHalfAmazing
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Re: What is your best legal-writing tip?

Postby HalfManHalfAmazing » Tue Feb 10, 2009 10:58 pm

Any 1Ls+ care to give me any tips on the discussion portion? My prof is expecting it to be 5 pages long and I am TOTALLY flaming out. We have a closed set of cases we can use for the memo (eight of them), and I find that frankly only 5 of them fit, and we are narrowed to a specific rule in which we are discussing our "clients" chances in court.

I have been given NO help on what sorts of things I should be including here. How much of my own personal feelings should be in the discussion part? Worse yet, this is a civil suit, so we aren't even applying potential criminal loopholes in this case.

Need help ASAP as the rough draft is due tomorrow and i am STUCKSVILLE.

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Ayodhya
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Re: What is your best legal-writing tip?

Postby Ayodhya » Thu Feb 12, 2009 10:50 am

bigben wrote:My moment: "A-ha, this is not hard at all. It's just a question of who is willing to spend the most hours refining it. Fuck this."

This is pretty much 100% correct.

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angiej
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Re: What is your best legal-writing tip?

Postby angiej » Thu Feb 12, 2009 10:56 am

K -Keep
I - it
S -simple
S -stupid

My legal writing professor drilled this into me constantly and it really makes alot of sense to me. But as a disclaimer, this was for paralegal school, not law school. I do alot of legal memos now for my paralegal job as well and the supervising attorneys seem to appreciate this. My legal writing prof was also a Circuit Court Judge and a ND Law Prof.

caroltowtrucker1
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Re: What is your best legal-writing tip?

Postby caroltowtrucker1 » Thu Feb 12, 2009 9:19 pm

T2 1L here.

I earned the best grade in my section on the final legal writing project and a top grade in the section. Here is my advice, some of which is repeated above.

1) Word economy. Make sure every single letter in your writing has a meaningful purpose. All readers, and especially law professors, are incredibly lazy. Do not make your law professor do more work (read more) than he has to for you to get your point across. Also, the fewer words (not "less words", btw) it takes to make your point, the more points you'll be able to make.

2) Avoid your prof's pet peeves. All professors have them and will make them known to you. Many will hate bad/lack of transitions. Many are sticklers for subject/verb agreement. Some people hate seeing repetition of the same word. Every prof has their idiosyncrasies, know them well.

3) Use a thesaurus (but not to find unnecessary adjectives!). Like it or not, esoteric words impress people. Also, use a thesaurus to avoid repetition of words, such as transitions and adjectives. Don't, on the other hand, use it to add fluff. Too many fancy adjectives will just make your writing ponderous and trite.

4) Focus on content. Don't obsess over word choice and grammar. Everybody makes mistakes and no paper is perfect. Overall, professors are looking at your arguments and analysis, which are the core of your writing.

My two cents.

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Ayodhya
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Re: What is your best legal-writing tip?

Postby Ayodhya » Fri Feb 13, 2009 12:44 am

Knowing your audience is crucial.

SecondTimeAround
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Re: What is your best legal-writing tip?

Postby SecondTimeAround » Fri Feb 13, 2009 12:16 pm

I would echo an earlier point about paraphrasing instead of quoting, especially since, as the poster said, you can tint the paraphrase with your point. It also makes the writing more flowing and readable. Further, be attentive to the sound and rhythm of language, as it can reinforce your substantive point. Much legal prose is unreadable and even repulsive because -- needlessly in my view -- it strives for the precision of a logical proof. I think the challenge for any legal writer is to have the tightness and structure necessary to make a sound legal point (the skeleton) and the literary skill to make it human, interesting, and readable (the flesh). Holmes seemed to be able to do this. He seems a good model to try to emulate.

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feeblemiles
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Re: What is your best legal-writing tip?

Postby feeblemiles » Fri Feb 13, 2009 8:32 pm

Any other books on legal writing for 0Ls out there?

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angiej
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Re: What is your best legal-writing tip?

Postby angiej » Sat Feb 14, 2009 9:11 am

feeblemiles wrote:Any other books on legal writing for 0Ls out there?


I would read a book geared toward Legal Research and Writing . . . b/c IMHO, if you are working on legal memos or briefs, you really have to know about the research side and how authorities work (primary, secondary, etc.) to get a good grasp on legal writing. But again, as a disclaimer, I'm a 0L myself, but just have had alot of experience with legal writing through paralegal school and my job. Whereas if you are just worried about writing contracts, etc. you might do better to get The Redbook which helps alot with style: http://www.amazon.com/Redbook-Manual-Legal-Style-Ed/dp/0314168915/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1234616967&sr=8-1

Also, structuring cites is tricky too, so every incoming 1L (again, IMHO) should get a bluebook, which is the bible on legal citing. http://www.amazon.com/Blue-Book-Uniform-System-Citation/dp/B000MRJI04/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1234617045&sr=1-4

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ggocat
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Re: What is your best legal-writing tip?

Postby ggocat » Sat Feb 14, 2009 10:09 am

feeblemiles wrote:Any other books on legal writing for 0Ls out there?

This is a good book. http://www.amazon.com/Legal-Writing-Pro ... 554&sr=8-1

2009 Prospective
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Re: What is your best legal-writing tip?

Postby 2009 Prospective » Sat Feb 14, 2009 10:50 am

ggocat wrote:
feeblemiles wrote:Any other books on legal writing for 0Ls out there?

This is a good book. http://www.amazon.com/Legal-Writing-Pro ... 554&sr=8-1


Would a book like this be worth reading before law school?

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ggocat
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Re: What is your best legal-writing tip?

Postby ggocat » Sat Feb 14, 2009 11:52 am

2009 Prospective wrote:
ggocat wrote:
feeblemiles wrote:Any other books on legal writing for 0Ls out there?

This is a good book. http://www.amazon.com/Legal-Writing-Pro ... 554&sr=8-1


Would a book like this be worth reading before law school?

I usually do not recommend reading any "pre-law" books before law school. That being said, if you can't help it, this book is pretty good and doesn't need a legal education or corresponding course to understand. It would be a lot better than reading a citation or style manual, as the previous poster suggested. Citation and style are better learned through practice rather than in the abstract.

EDIT: And it's pretty cheap used.

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angiej
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Re: What is your best legal-writing tip?

Postby angiej » Sat Feb 14, 2009 12:01 pm

ggocat wrote:
2009 Prospective wrote:
ggocat wrote:
feeblemiles wrote:Any other books on legal writing for 0Ls out there?

This is a good book. http://www.amazon.com/Legal-Writing-Pro ... 554&sr=8-1


Would a book like this be worth reading before law school?

I usually do not recommend reading any "pre-law" books before law school. That being said, if you can't help it, this book is pretty good and doesn't need a legal education or corresponding course to understand. It would be a lot better than reading a citation or style manual, as the previous poster suggested. Citation and style are better learned through practice rather than in the abstract.

EDIT: And it's pretty cheap used.


I of course, disagree, but in effort to giving assistance to the OP wanted a chance to defend my reasons . . . for me, its best to get an understanding of why and how legal writing differs from traditional or creative writing, and this was suggested to me by the ND Law Professor who taught my legal writing class, which he admitted was the same curriculum and substantive material taught in the 1L legal writing class. If you don't want to look at the books I posted as a 0L, atleast have access to them during your 1L legal writing class, trust me, you will thank me.

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ggocat
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Re: What is your best legal-writing tip?

Postby ggocat » Sat Feb 14, 2009 12:39 pm

angiej wrote:I of course, disagree, but in effort to giving assistance to the OP wanted a chance to defend my reasons . . . for me, its best to get an understanding of why and how legal writing differs from traditional or creative writing, and this was suggested to me by the ND Law Professor who taught my legal writing class, which he admitted was the same curriculum and substantive material taught in the 1L legal writing class. If you don't want to look at the books I posted as a 0L, atleast have access to them during your 1L legal writing class, trust me, you will thank me.

The Bluebook and/or ALWD Citation Manual will likely be a required book for your 1L legal writing class. But they, and The Redbook, are manuals. You don't read a manual. They are tools for use when you have a problem. "How do I cite a Restatement?" "When do I spell out numbers vs. use numerals?" "Which foreign words do I italicize and which do I leave in normal text?"

Sure, you can read a reference manual from cover to cover, but it's like reading the dictionary. You will learn some words, but unless you use the words every day, you won't remember them.

A legal writing book is different. It discusses reasoning methods and writing methods. It is meant to be read like a book, not used as a reference like a citation/style manual.

Disclaimer: I've never personally used The Redbook, although my understanding is that it's a style manual. I wouldn't purchase The Redbook unless your prof suggests it over other books. Some profs prefer specific style manuals. My law review uses the Texas Manual on Usage and Style: --LinkRemoved--

EDIT: Don't get me wrong. Citation and style manuals will be essential for every 1L (although, a style manual is more essential if you are on a journal). However, different profs use different citation/style manuals. That's why I think they are not very good pre-law school books to purchase. A better option would be a book about legal writing (if you are dead-set on reading something about legal writing, which is probably unnecessary).

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TTT-LS
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Re: What is your best legal-writing tip?

Postby TTT-LS » Sat Feb 14, 2009 2:42 pm

.
Last edited by TTT-LS on Sun Jun 20, 2010 6:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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angiej
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Re: What is your best legal-writing tip?

Postby angiej » Sun Feb 15, 2009 10:51 am

TTT-LS wrote:I think ggocat has the better of it here. Learning macro-level things like argument organization and preferred sentence structure isn't a bad idea if you simply *must* do some reading as a 0L. One thing I distinctly recall from 1st semester of 1L year was the feeling that we had to start writing like we were in fourth grade again. The style just felt so foreign (e.g. "John, the defendant, drove a green 1997 Dodge Neon. See X. Neighbors saw him driving the vehicle recklessly on more than one occasion last year. See Y..."). If you can start making that transition a little earlier, and if you can understand why that transition is desirable, it might help your legal writing grade. Memorizing the bluebook or something like it, otoh, will absolutely not help.



This is why I recommended the style guide. :roll:

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angiej
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Re: What is your best legal-writing tip?

Postby angiej » Sun Feb 15, 2009 10:55 am

ggocat wrote:
angiej wrote:I of course, disagree, but in effort to giving assistance to the OP wanted a chance to defend my reasons . . . for me, its best to get an understanding of why and how legal writing differs from traditional or creative writing, and this was suggested to me by the ND Law Professor who taught my legal writing class, which he admitted was the same curriculum and substantive material taught in the 1L legal writing class. If you don't want to look at the books I posted as a 0L, atleast have access to them during your 1L legal writing class, trust me, you will thank me.

The Bluebook and/or ALWD Citation Manual will likely be a required book for your 1L legal writing class. But they, and The Redbook, are manuals. You don't read a manual. They are tools for use when you have a problem. "How do I cite a Restatement?" "When do I spell out numbers vs. use numerals?" "Which foreign words do I italicize and which do I leave in normal text?"

Sure, you can read a reference manual from cover to cover, but it's like reading the dictionary. You will learn some words, but unless you use the words every day, you won't remember them.

A legal writing book is different. It discusses reasoning methods and writing methods. It is meant to be read like a book, not used as a reference like a citation/style manual.

Disclaimer: I've never personally used The Redbook, although my understanding is that it's a style manual :roll: . I wouldn't purchase The Redbook unless your prof suggests it over other books. Some profs prefer specific style manuals. My law review uses the Texas Manual on Usage and Style: --LinkRemoved--

EDIT: Don't get me wrong. Citation and style manuals will be essential for every 1L (although, a style manual is more essential if you are on a journal). However, different profs use different citation/style manuals. That's why I think they are not very good pre-law school books to purchase. A better option would be a book about legal writing (if you are dead-set on reading something about legal writing, which is probably unnecessary).


:roll:

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ggocat
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Re: What is your best legal-writing tip?

Postby ggocat » Sun Feb 15, 2009 11:48 am

angiej wrote:
ggocat wrote:
angiej wrote:I of course, disagree, but in effort to giving assistance to the OP wanted a chance to defend my reasons . . . for me, its best to get an understanding of why and how legal writing differs from traditional or creative writing, and this was suggested to me by the ND Law Professor who taught my legal writing class, which he admitted was the same curriculum and substantive material taught in the 1L legal writing class. If you don't want to look at the books I posted as a 0L, atleast have access to them during your 1L legal writing class, trust me, you will thank me.

The Bluebook and/or ALWD Citation Manual will likely be a required book for your 1L legal writing class. But they, and The Redbook, are manuals. You don't read a manual. They are tools for use when you have a problem. "How do I cite a Restatement?" "When do I spell out numbers vs. use numerals?" "Which foreign words do I italicize and which do I leave in normal text?"

Sure, you can read a reference manual from cover to cover, but it's like reading the dictionary. You will learn some words, but unless you use the words every day, you won't remember them.

A legal writing book is different. It discusses reasoning methods and writing methods. It is meant to be read like a book, not used as a reference like a citation/style manual.

Disclaimer: I've never personally used The Redbook, although my understanding is that it's a style manual :roll: . I wouldn't purchase The Redbook unless your prof suggests it over other books. Some profs prefer specific style manuals. My law review uses the Texas Manual on Usage and Style: --LinkRemoved--

EDIT: Don't get me wrong. Citation and style manuals will be essential for every 1L (although, a style manual is more essential if you are on a journal). However, different profs use different citation/style manuals. That's why I think they are not very good pre-law school books to purchase. A better option would be a book about legal writing (if you are dead-set on reading something about legal writing, which is probably unnecessary).


:roll:


Wait, are you saying The Redbook is not a style manual?

The Redbook sounds like a style manual:
Product Description
Provides a comprehensive guide to the essential rules of legal writing. Unlike most style or grammar guides, it focuses on the special needs of legal writers. answering a wide spectrum of questions about grammar and style both rules as well as exceptions. Also gives detailed, authoritative advice on punctuation, capitalization, spelling, footnotes, and citations, with illustrations in legal context. Designed for law students, law professors, practicing lawyers and judges, the work emphasizes the ways in which legal writing differs from other styles of technical writing. Its how to sections deal with editing and proofreading, numbers and symbols, and overall document design.

http://www.amazon.com/Redbook-Manual-Le ... 967&sr=8-1


A Legal Writing book is not a style manual:
Product Description
Instructors who want to concentrate on the basics of legal writing will welcome the new edition of this successful process-oriented text. "Legal Writing: Process, Analysis, and Organization, Fourth Edition", is a concise and straightforward guide for the beginner. The book is designed to facilitate learning: provides a basic guide to the skills of legal writing; process-oriented text takes students step by step through outlining, creating a working draft, creating the final document, and revising effectively; teaches reasoning and writing as two interrelated processes by integrating creating a rule of law into the writing process and linking it to the large-scale organization of the document; the author pays close attention to different learning styles, keeping the book teachable and accessible; concrete explanations and examples reinforce the material; exercises help students build their writing skills; appendices include a sample office memorandum, trial brief, appellate brief, and cases uses in the examples and exercises. Changes for the Fourth Edition enhance the teachability of the book: two more sample documents are introduced, and all the documents in the appendices are identified as examples of particular common kinds of analysis; materials are streamlined wherever possible to control the length of the text; and citation materials are fully updated.

http://www.amazon.com/Legal-Writing-Pro ... 594&sr=1-1

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Yointer
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Re: What is your best legal-writing tip?

Postby Yointer » Sun Feb 15, 2009 11:59 am

Never use Latin maxims. I promise they can be translated into regular old unpretentious English.

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angiej
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Re: What is your best legal-writing tip?

Postby angiej » Mon Feb 16, 2009 9:09 am

The Redbook IS a stylemanual, but it discusses the differences between creative/traditional writing and legal writing, which I found very helpful. Just trying to help here, not create a huge debate on whether I know what I'm talking about or not . . . which is a waste of time, b/c apparently, according to you, I don't know what I'm talking about even though I have beeen writing legal memorandums, contracts, legal briefs, etc. for the last 7 years of my life!

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lizshuler
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Re: What is your best legal-writing tip?

Postby lizshuler » Mon Feb 16, 2009 9:29 am

I'm a 0L, but I have a B.S. in Legal Studies, and two of the required classes were Legal Research and Legal Writing. I had to do memos and trial briefs. Obviously every professor is going to be different, but do you think having this background will put me at an advantage?

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angiej
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Re: What is your best legal-writing tip?

Postby angiej » Mon Feb 16, 2009 9:36 am

lizshuler wrote:I'm a 0L, but I have a B.S. in Legal Studies, and two of the required classes were Legal Research and Legal Writing. I had to do memos and trial briefs. Obviously every professor is going to be different, but do you think having this background will put me at an advantage?


I can't imagine it wouldn't. But again, the above posters apparently think I'm an idiot, so don't bother listening to what I have to say.

06072010
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Re: What is your best legal-writing tip?

Postby 06072010 » Mon Feb 16, 2009 10:41 am

1. Long cite everything during development of the paper -- go back and short form when you are done.
2. Avoid legal prose
3. Your LR&W class isn't the place to expound novel legal theories. That's called law review.
4. Short simple sentences.

chunaa
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Re: What is your best legal-writing tip?

Postby chunaa » Mon Feb 16, 2009 4:31 pm

I was (and am) so unused to all those writing conventions: rigid rules, no original ideas .... no extra words. I added a paragraph or two, thinking that would ease the transition between different ideas - and my professor said that was redundant and I should "move on". I thought of digging deeper into some ideas to give my discussion more "depth" and she said, "don't labor". be concise and to the point, and move on. :roll:

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TTT-LS
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Re: What is your best legal-writing tip?

Postby TTT-LS » Mon Feb 16, 2009 6:36 pm

.
Last edited by TTT-LS on Sun Jun 20, 2010 6:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.




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