Excellent writing skills are crucial to landing and securing an attorney position. This holds true no matter whether you’re after an opportunity with a law firm or corporate legal department. Lawyers are simply expected to write well. They’re told this in the first few days of law school and the message never wavers. While legal writing is truly an art form, we must master it to become effective attorneys. The following are a few tips to ensure your writing skills are ahead of the pack’s.
Don’t Jump to the Island of Conclusions
Lawyers are often looked upon to make a solid point. For example, the company was negligent in developing its product because of the engineering used. Or, driver A was at fault in the accident because it failed to stop at the stop sign. When writing, however, attorneys are sometimes too quick in getting to their ultimate point. They tend to avoid facts and logic and instantly jump to the island of conclusions.
Avoid this tendency. The facts and laws involved in a case are always important. Use them to your advantage and develop powerful arguments rather than just provide end points. Use logic to lead your reader to where you want to go. Don’t just tell them something.
Limit the Legalese
Does anyone have a good working definition of “heretofore”? We didn’t think so. Being a good lawyer doesn’t mean you have to constantly use legalese. Yes, this language is sometimes required but try to limit its use. Choose clear and simple language that we can all understand.
Write to YOUR Audience
It’s a fact that attorneys will write a ton of documents in their careers. It’s also a fact that these documents will get directed to a host of different audiences. For example, lawyers will write for judges, clients, colleagues, superiors, opposing counsel, insurance carriers, etc. The nature of a writing will drastically differ depending on the person or entity its written for.
Therefore, know the audience you’re writing to and craft your writing to that audience. If you’re writing a motion, use language that persuades. When drafting a client letter, your goal is to inform. The language you use and your writing style must always match the audience you’re communicating to.
Brief is Better than Wordy
Consider the following two sentences:
“Given that you failed to make timely payment to Mr. Johnson for the work he performed to your home, it’s apparent that you are in breach of the performance contract signed between the two of you.”
“You are in breach of the performance contact because you failed to pay Mr. Johnson for his work.”
The second sentence is the more effective of the two because its simpler. Try to adopt a concise writing style. Avoid lengthy sentences and extraneous words. Every word you use should contribute to your overall message.
Edit, Edit, and…Edit
Always review your writing prior to sending it to its intended audience. Please know that an honest review is not done hastily or with little focus. Editing is critical to ensure your writing is well organized, done with purpose, and clearly communicates your message. Thus, review and edit with diligence…and, do it more than once.
Your writing screams volumes as to your legal abilities. Don’t hide from this fact or forget it. When searching for employment, make sure your writing samples, resume, and cover letter are well written and free of errors. After you secure an attorney position, work to perfect your writing skills and always search for ways to develop them. Remember the above tips and master the art of legal writing today!