Lawyers As Professional Writers

I really like Wayne Schiess’ Legal Writing Blog. This entry features a guest “blogger” Cheryl Stephens of Building Rapport, a blog about Plain Language.  I really enjoyed her passage: she urges lawyers to view themselves as professional writers, often drafting more pages in a day “than a novelist hones in a week.”

Trumpeting a refrain similar to the tune hummed by Arthur Miller in my prior blog entry, Ms. Stephens laments the poor quality of writing and reasoning exhibited by first year associates. Ms. Stephens presses these new lawyers to see themselves as “publishers” and advises them to adhere to the principles of Plain Language – “good grammar, standard English, no jargon, and well-formed sentences expressing well-formed thoughts.” Check out her new book, Plain Language Legal Writing.

After more than 17 years as a professional writer, I find myself still actively thinking about my writing on a regular basis. I would like to claim that perfect grammar and precise communication flow naturally, reflexively and abundantly for me, but the truth is that even the best writers must tend to their product no matter how skilled they are or believe themselves to be. Take a writing course, read examples of powerful persuasive writing, start a journal, or maybe even a blog. If you wish to improve your writing, take charge of your process, seek opportunities to rise above bad habits and avoid complacency. Your clients, your peers and your tribunals rely on your words.

2 comments on “Lawyers As Professional Writers

  1. I agree with you — we can never get so comfortable that we forget to think before we write.

    And then, anything anybody writes benefits from an edit. The lucky ones among us get to use a professional editor, the rest of us do the best we can.

    Remember the olden days when people dictated letters? When you received one sent on the eve of a vacation, the signature line would say, “dictated but not read”.

    Don’t you get the impression most writers are doing that today without diclosing it?

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