10 Tips to Improve Legal Writing
Any lawyer in his legal career will be strongly judged on two things: his interpersonal skills and his writing skills. Although the requirements of each legal document are different, these ten tips can contribute to improving the legal writing that is being made.
- Make sure you understand the controversy or problem of your client. When you are given an assignment, ask lots of questions. Read the relevant documents and take notes. Learn everything you can about the client’s situation. If you are a paralegal or an assistant and are not communicated in detail to the client’s situation, ask. There is no way to write a memo from the abstract. You must know all the details.
- Do not rely solely on computer research. Combine different features. Look in indexes, digests and treatises to understand the concepts in full. When it comes to computer research, do not forget Google Books.
- Never submit a preliminary version of your work in progress. A common practice among researchers in a hurry, especially when a project has not been completed, is to deliver a partial paper. This can be detrimental because no supervisor wants to read a half done work. It is better to turn in late than deliver an investigation with incorrect results.
- Summarize your findings at the beginning of the document. Whether you are writing a research memorandum, an opinion, a letter or a summary, you need a summary at the beginning. This typically consists of three things: the main questions, the answers to those questions and the reasons underpinning those answers. If you are writing a motion or a summary, try writing on one page the main controversy and the arguments that your client has in favor. That is your biggest challenge.
- Make your abstract understandable to those who will read it. It is not enough to summarize. It should be summarized in a way that is understandable to the reader, not only to the lawyer, but, for example, to the client who is going to access the document. Separate the problem into a paragraph of no more than 75 words. Then provide a brief answer. Use clear language, do not assume that the reader will understand its darkness.
- Do not feel too sure of your conclusion but not too insecure. Law school exams can motivate students to use the alternatives in concluding the results of an investigation. This approach can be tinkering. What is required in a memorandum is your best understanding of how the court could resolve the dispute.
- Moderate professional tone, natural but not colloquial. Some lawyers, especially the less experienced, being motivated not to use too much “legalese”, end up writing too informally, avoiding the standards of good writing, especially in emails. For example, they shorten words too much or use emoticons. Even if you are working for a law firm, where some people do this, restrict these practices. Use the standard grammar rules in your emails.
- Study the proper form of summons. Each jurisdiction has its own citation summons. Study the one in your jurisdiction and quote accordingly.
- Edit each unnecessary sentence. Then go back to the document and edit any words that are unnecessary. The verbiage makes its wording seem messy and little thought. Learn how to eliminate unnecessary words and cut off phrases that are too long.
- Check once again than you believes necessarily. If you are tired of looking at your work product while you are writing, give it a good reading aloud. So he will take advantage of those moments to correct. Do it more than once. It is better for you to find the errors than your readers.