Tag Archives: Legal Writing

When Writing, An Ounce Of Empathy Is Worth A Pound Of Grammar

A lawyer has two jobs. First, the lawyer thinks about how the law might work, good or bad, in their client’s situation, and then tells their client. Second, the lawyer brings others around to ideas about the law that are good for their client.  Outside my office, there’s a poster of the brilliant xkcd comic “Up Goer Five,” in which the various complicated parts of the Saturn V Moon Rocket are “explained using only the ten hundred words people use the most often.” As the comic explains, the “US Space Team’s Up Goer Five” is “the only flying space car ... Continue Reading

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This Is Rice: How To Get Better At The Practice Of Law

  This month the Smithsonian has long profile on Anthony Bourdain that ends with, “What would you like your last meal to be?” In typical Bourdain fashion, the meal he has in mind is virtually impossible to get without reservations weeks in advance: a sushi course at Sukiyabashi Jiro, the three Michelin star restaurant profiled in the excellent documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi. As Bourdain explains:   Watch the film and you will understand. It is an 88-year-old man doing the same basic 30 or 40 basic cuts of Edo-style sushi, meaning nothing innovative. Every night he’s been going to ... Continue Reading

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Taking The Law Out of Harvard Law School

  An article last month in The Harvard Crimson (“The Changing Face of the Law Professor”) explained that, fifty years ago, the typical Harvard Law School professor was someone who knew a little about the law but nothing about how it works:   “Somebody who got into a top law school, did very well and then completed a prestigious clerkship was well situated to be hired on the basis of those credentials,” said Law School professor Richard H. Fallon, who attended Yale Law School and clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Lewis F. Powell.   These days, however, the typical ... Continue Reading

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Doing The Best You Can As A Writer (Thoughts On The ABA Journal’s Blawg 100)

On Monday, the ABA Journal released its 6th annual “Blawg 100,” this time including your’s truly’s little home on the Internet. It is, to use the term I used two-and-a-half years ago to describe the benefits of writing a legal blog, “more pie,” and I’m always happy to receive more pie. If you’ve found my blog useful in your practice in the past, or just an interesting read, I’d be much obliged if you stopped over there and voted for me in the “Trial Practice” category. (As an aside, Pennsylvania lawyers cleaned up in the Trial Practice and Torts categories — four honorees combined, ... Continue Reading

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Poor Brief Writing Skills Prompt Dismissal By Appellate Court

Via Howard Bashman, last week a three-judge panel of the First Circuit Court of Appeals issued a per curiam opinion in Rodriguez-Machado v. Shinseki, affirming a District Court’s grant of summary judgment in an Age Discrimination in Employment Act case. It was a routine case that had been dismissed by the District Court for three commonplace reasons: the plaintiff, who worked at the Veterans Administration, (1) had not been injured enough in their workplace to have suffered an “adverse employment action”; (2) had not shown the hostility she suffered at work rose to the “level of severity or pervasiveness” required ... Continue Reading

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Sanctions For Failing To Disclose Adverse Precedent Under The Duty Of Candor

A year and a half ago, I wrote a post, Philosophy Explains How Legal Ethics Turn Lawyers Into Liars, discussing a couple situations in which I witnessed my opposing counsel tell the judge an outright lie about the case.   I can’t say that I’m surprised to find that this problem hasn’t disappeared since that post, and I continue to devote many hours responding to opposing counsels’ objectively baseless motions.  Generally, these motions aren’t quickly or crudely written; rather, they tend to be quite carefully crafted and polished to create the appearance of a legitimate issue for resolution, a patchwork ... Continue Reading

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Scalia On Reading Law: The Fox On Guarding Henhouses

[September 20, 2012: This post has been updated at the end to include comments on Judge Posner's review, Brian Garner's response, and the volleys between Scalia and Posner.] It sounds like such a good idea: the pre-eminent legal lexicographer of our time and a Supreme Court Justice together writing a large, detailed treatise on, as they say, “what, in our view, courts ought to do with operative language” of regulations, statutes, and court opinions. The result of this collaboration between Brian Garner and Justice Scalia, Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts, billed as “systematically explain[ing] all the most important ... Continue Reading

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How To Excel At The Basics As A Young Litigator

A year ago, I posted the Young Lawyer’s Guide To Legal Marketing. My thoughts haven't changed, i.e., find a mentor and then "build your practice the way you’d built a cake store or a plumbing business: through superior quality, exceptional customer service, making calls and wearing down your shoe leather. Get your name out there and make sure it’s associated with quality." And be generous with your time. Within that post I quoted another article with ten lawyer marketing tips for young attorneys, which began with "#1 - Excel at the Basics." Let's elaborate on how young litigators improve their "basics." 1. What Not To Work ... Continue Reading

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The Three Types Of Practicing Lawyer Blogs

SCOTUSBlog, the premier media source — internet, newspaper, anywhere — for Supreme Court news, has just undergone a revision, including sponsorship by Bloomberg Law. Scott Greenfield, the premier source for complaints about legal blogging, thinks something was lost in translation: Most disturbing is the resort to the formulaic approach of "ask the expert," and the expert invariably being someone with scholarly credentials so that their every utterance comes with built-in academic credibility. We see it in newspaper articles and on television news, the lawprof opining about things he's never personally touched and only seen from afar. We were knee deep ... Continue Reading

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Poet Laureate Philip Levine On Writing “Where The Poem Leads”

As a lawyer, you're either a conversationalist, a counselor, a writer, a storyteller, or some mixture of them all. I spend a fair amount of my time reading or writing pleadings and briefs, a fair amount of time either preparing a story (through discovery and depositions) or telling a story (at a court hearing or at trial), and the remainder of my time counseling clients. Consequently, I'm a sucker for any advice from writers and storytellers, and have previously referenced the methods of writers like David Mitchell and Philip K. Dick, as well as storytellers like Jay-Z and David Mamet. ... Continue Reading

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