Strong Legal Writing: A Guide
Strong legal writing is possibly the best trait you can bring to any job. Whether you do transactional work or you’re in court every day, you still need to write. It is a skill that eludes many. Strong writing can win cases and move mountains. But like an expert orator or skilled artist, lawyers must practice and refine their craft. A new book, The Lawyer’s Essential Guide to Writing, by Marie Buckley, offers many helpful tools and techniques for improving your legal writing. But is it worth the price tag?
Tips for Strong Legal Writing
The most effective tool for strong and persuasive writing, according to Buckley, is “leading from the top.” I had an opportunity to interview Buckley, and she explained what it means to lead from the top. “In a nutshell, it means that your paper as a whole and each part of your paper should begin with a ‘lead’ that summarizes the point of that section.” Leading from the top will help your reader understand you better. “Leading from the top tells our readers what to look for in the rest of a paper, so it ‘primes’ them to hunt for certain information as they read. Then, when we present that information later, it ‘clicks.’ And because our readers know where the paper is going, we can spend less time on transitions later in the paper.”
But this concept does not just apply to memos and briefs. For example, Buckley explained that in an email “…the subject line should lead for the whole message and the opening sentence is essential. In PowerPoint, earlier slides lead for later slides. In social media, the first encounter with the reader must lead for the rest of the written material.”
Not Another Grammar Guide
I was pleased to find that The Lawyer’s Essential Guide to Writing wasn’t just another book about grammar and style. While the book does touch on grammar and definitely addresses style, it does much more. The book is chock full of simple tips for making you a stronger writer. It is broken down into easily digestible chapters that can be read in order or as necessary. For example, when you’re writing the facts section of a brief you can read the chapter on “Story.” Even if you decide to read the book through from start to finish, Buckley’s style will keep you turning the pages.
Go Buy this Book
Whether you read the book piecemeal or from start to finish, you will find it valuable. In addition to the numerous tips and style pointers, the book has a quick reference guide to replace all that unnecessary legalese you’re using.
The ABA sets the price of the book at $80. Normally I would argue that the price is too high, but it’s an extremely valuable book. This book will make you a stronger writer. It’s a fair price for a book that can help you win cases and get clients.