Tag Archives: Legal Writing

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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Jose Baez And The Philip K. Dick Method Of Lawyering

I've written before about the lessons for lawyers of Jay-Z and Aristotle and what Atticus Finch really teaches about persuading a jury. I firmly believe that trial lawyers can learn as much from the great communicators — the entertainers, the philosophers, the writers — as they can from other lawyers and advocates. We may be advocates, but our audience is rarely made of advocates. First, a recap of the basics of trial advocacy. For plaintiff's lawyers, Rick Friedman and Patrick Malone wrote in Rules of the Road that the three greatest problems that plaintiffs faced in proving liability were complexity, confusion, and ambiguity. Reptile by Don ... Continue Reading

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Never Take A Judge’s Advice On How To Write A Brief

There's been a lot of discussion in the blawgosphere lately about Bryan Garner's interviews with eight sitting Justices of the United States (as of 2007), in which the Justices uniformly agreed that the briefs submitted to them were too long and raised too many issues. For once, practicing attorneys and law professors have been unified in their response: the Supreme Court is full of hypocrites. As Prof. Gerard Magliocca wrote, The headline is that the members of the Court think that briefs are too long.  “Lawyers somehow can’t give up the extra space,” Justice Ginsburg said, “so they fill the ... Continue Reading

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Panda Blogging Is The New Legal Treatise

It’s no secret: legal marketing isn’t pretty. Even those of us personal injury lawyers who try to keep our marketing clean, like Eric Turkewitz, hate our marketing copy. There’s no easy way to mix tastefulness, modesty, search engine optimization, and client conversion into one document. Making matters worse, nobody would ever genuinely link to a sales page puffing up someone’s legal practice, so a lot of lawyers have resorted to shady search engine optimization tactics to game Google into ranking them first. Only 3% of legal work is influenced by legal directories? Maybe so, but those expensive directories will also ... Continue Reading

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