Tag Archives: Legal Writing

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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Young Lawyer’s Guide To Legal Marketing (And Snark Mentoring)

John Wait is a second-year attorney in North Carolina, a solo practitioner who has been trying to develop experience and a reputation by serving on the court-appointed criminal defense counsel list (a common recommendation made to new lawyers). He’s worried about obtaining enough clients that way, so he wrote a basic question to the American Bar Association’s “Solosez” listserv: Here are my ideas [to bring in more clients]: 1. Bite the bullet and pay for traffic ticket lists. Do mailings. 2. Pay for SEO to increase my website's search engine effectiveness. 3. Continue networking as much as possible. Not the ... Continue Reading

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The Problems of Language

One of the great weaknesses of the civil litigation process is its near-total reliance on language. The vast majority of civil lawsuits are resolved, either by being dismissed or settled, before any party or witness testifies before a judge or jury, a process which is largely dependent upon written filings, transcripts of testimony given outside the presence of the judge or jury (that is, depositions), and, to a limited extent, oral arguments made the court hearings. As Dinosaur Comics lucidly explains: (Hat tip, Language Log.) Take a couple recent examples of the problems of language: One Professor’s Attempt to Explain ... Continue Reading

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Jury Awards Law Professors $5 Million Against West Publishing For Defamatory Pocket Part

[UPDATE: Law Librarian Blog and 3 Geeks and a Law Blog both have detailed coverage of the case and what it means for the publishing industry, and Jonathan Turley has background on the Campbell punitive damages case.] [UPDATE II: As The Legal Intelligencer  reported, and as I predicted below, Judge Fullam cut the punitive damages verdict, holding "the constitutional limit in this case should be set at $110,000 for each plaintiff. When combined with the compensatory damages, this would result in a recovery of $200,000 for each plaintiff." That's roughly a 1:1 ratio of compensatory:punitive damages, which is low under recent precedent, ... Continue Reading

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Do Lawyers And Judges Still Look To The Supreme Court For Guidance?

There are two components of every court opinion: first, the "holding," which is what the court did — dismiss the case, uphold the jury verdict, remand for a new trial, overturn a sentence, et cetera — and, second, the "reasoning," where the court explains why it did what it did. For the parties to the case, the most important part is the holding: it tells the parties who won this round, sometimes who won the fight. For everyone else, the holding is meaningless: we want to know the reasoning which will guide future courts in deciding future cases. The Supreme ... Continue Reading

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The Real Value Of A Lawyer: Medieval Apple Tarts and Conan O’Brien

Lawyers have a lot of technical training and experience. They spend three years in a hybrid humanities / vocational graduation school, devote a few months to cramming a summary of one or two state's laws into their brains, regurgitate and forget it all over two or three days, then spend a couple years learning, through bruising experience, archaic and frustrating — but utterly essential — issues like how to convince a prothonotary to praecipe a motion for disposition or how to suppress the fruit of the poisonous tree. But you don't hire a lawyer just so they can apply that ... Continue Reading

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Judges On The Quality Of Legal Representation: Briefs vs. Oral Argument and Experience vs. Intellect

A few months back, Judge Richard Posner and Professor Albert Yoon posted their draft of What Judges Think of the Quality of Legal Representation, their forthcoming paper in the Stanford Law Review. Legal scholarship is prone towards omphaloskepsis and metadiscourse, so it's refreshing to see a paper coming out based on real, honest-to-goodness empirical data: Posner and Yoon's survey of 666 federal and state judges, including both appellate and trial judges. There's a lot to unpack from the study, so I'm going to do it in several posts. Before we get to the data, there are two long-standing preconceived notions about the ... Continue Reading

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Ready, Fire, Aim: A Lesson In Bad Legal Writing From The Lowe’s Drywall Class Action Settlement Kerfuffle

The internet has not been pleased with the proposed settlement reached between Lowe's — which denies ever selling any tainted Chinese drywall — and the plaintiff's attorneys in a Georgia state court class action. There's two problems with the proposed settlement, which has not yet been approved by a judge. First, the settlement is a dreaded coupon settlement (i.e., a settlement in which the plaintiffs get only coupons or vouchers to buy more stuff from the defendant), one that will use particularly unreliable notice procedures for letting potential class members know about the settlement. For more, see ProPublica and the ... Continue Reading

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The Secret of Law Blogging: It’s A Pie-Eating Contest

Yesterday Adrian Dayton commented on the three most common reasons why people fail at blogging: In dozens of conversations with busy professional I hear time and time again similar excuses to the ones I made to my Father as a kid. “I’m too busy.” “I barely have time to respond to all my emails.” “I don’t want to commit to something I can’t stick with.” Most people who try to blog fail for three major reasons. 1. They aren’t sufficiently motivated to blog. 2. They aren’t organized enough to blog. 3. They don’t know what to say. I'm no fan ... Continue Reading

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