Communication is the key to success. No matter how brilliant a lawyer's ideas may be, those ideas will remain unheard if the lawyer cannot communicate them effectively. Consequently, legal writing is a fundamental skill for lawyers and law students.
Legal writing is specialized writing; it has terminology, techniques, and forms of its own. However, legal writing is not a foreign language. It begins with the same fundamentals as other types of writing, and adopts those fundamentals to the needs of the law. It should have the same clarity, logic, and comprehensibility as other types of writing. This website's purpose is to develop the reader's legal writing skills, so that he or she can effectively communicate with others in the language of the law
Editing is an essential part of writing; few authors create a perfect first draft. Many of the exercises on this website concern the details of editing. However, editing also involves certain general principles. First, you should edit a draft several times, concentrating on different aspects of writing. For example, the first time through you might focus on whether the ideas are laid out in a logical order and whether the ideas flow together. On the second time through, you might concentrate on wordiness, overuse of the passive voice, and awkward constructions.
A key to editing is to read the paper aloud, listening closely to what you are reading. When you read a paper aloud, you will uncover wordiness, awkwardness, choppiness, and lack of coherence and flow. Also, try to stand in your readers' shoes, realizing that your readers will be reading your writing for the first time.
Finally, proofreading is a vital part of writing. Misspellings, typos, and bluebooking errors subtract from the effect of your writing. When a judge finds numerous proofreading errors in a brief, she will assume that the legal research and reasoning is also sloppy. You should proofread any paper you intend for others several times.
Exercises for Legal Writing II: Editing for Wordiness
Legal Argument and Small-Scale Organization
Legal Writing, Professionalism, and Legal Ethics
Exercises for Legal Writers III: Emphasis, Clarity, & Specificity
Exercises for Legal Writers IV: Combining Sentences and Editing Paragraphs
Exercises for Legal Writers V: Organizing Paragraphs, Creating Coherence, Writing Thesis Paragraphs
Exercises for Legal Writers VI: Review
Legal Skills Prof Blog
Bio: Professor Fruehwald has taught at the law schools of the University of Alabama, Roger Williams University, and Hofstra University. He graduated magna cum laude from the University of Louisville School of Law, where he was editor-in-chief of the Law Review. He also has an S.J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law and a Ph.D. from the City University of New York. He has published over 20 articles on law and behavioral biology, conflicts of law, federalism, and copyright. His book, Choice of Law for American Courts: A Multilateralist Method, received Hofstra University's Stessin Prize for Outstanding Scholarship in 2002. He is a contributing editor to the Legal Skills Prof Blog, where he discusses legal education, legal skills, and other legal issues. He is currently writing a book on legal education.
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