LawProse Lesson #214: Lawyers’ biggest failing as writers.
Lawyers’ biggest failing as writers. What’s the most pervasive flaw among legal writers? It’s the tendency to begin writing before fully understanding the message to be conveyed. Lawyers often don’t think through what they want to say until they’re already writing—and they therefore meander, backtrack, and even restart. Unless they spend a great deal of time rewriting and cutting, they end up submitting something verbose, rambling, repetitious, incohesive, and unpersuasive. The mature writer first figures out the major propositions and then writes in support of them. The resulting product has both an overt structure and a strong focus. This method of writing isn’t inborn; it’s learned. With some patience and humility, anyone can learn to do it. Further reading: Legal Writing in Plain English § 1, at 7–9 (2d ed. 2013). The Winning Brief 11–62 (3d ed. 2014). Antonin Scalia & Bryan A. Garner, Making Your Case 69–70 (2008).