Lawyers, Ignore The Power of Visuals at Your Own Peril
Sometimes, visuals are the key to understanding—or even winning—a case, but lawyers routinely fail to use them.
Hey Hey, Ho Ho, 19th Century Fonts Have Got to Go
Lawyers are fixated on fonts and typographical rules that went out of style decades ago. We can do better.
Why Hyperbole Will Destroy Your Case and Understatement Will Save It
Lawyers often give in to the temptation of overstatement and bombast, but attorneys can often strengthen their case with understatement instead.
How Scare Quotes Are Saving Legal Writing
If lawyers stop disarming themselves by using legalese, maybe they won't need scare quotes. Until then, we'll have to put up with them. A baby step in the right direction is much better than nothing.
The Secret Style Guide the Supreme Court Doesn’t Want You to Read
You can't get any higher than supreme. So when the public gets a glimpse into the inner workings of the Supreme Court, it's a big deal.
Lawyers, Stop Writing (and Saying) These Things Immediately
Wherever lawyers stand on legalese, they should, at least, stand on reason.
The Death of Leading Questions?
Take this test. Watch a cross-examination from almost any televised trial. You’ll probably find it’s pretty bad, maybe even as bad as Cristina Gutierez’s cross-examination of an expert witness (ending at 2:03) in the Adnan Syed case (the topic of last year’s Serial podcast): Getting it Right Any lawyer who fails on cross forfeits a major opportunity […]
The Best Moments From Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
Who is Phoenix Wright? He's an improbable video game trial lawyer whose only superpower is that he's a really good lawyer... sort of. Gamemaker Capcom describes him as" the rookie defense lawyer new to the scene with the wildest cross-examination skills in town." That's one way of putting it.
How the Solicitor General’s Style Guide Calls Out Bad Legal Writing
In addition to taking a stand in favor of the "case law" usage, the Guide makes some important recommendations in favor of the active voice, plain language, and more elegant typography.
Want To Destroy Your Case? Throw In The Kitchen Sink.
Before we were even lawyers, law school trained us to find the most creative arguments possible, and to never leave one out. That’s how we passed our Torts exam—we identified 18 causes of action in a simple slip-and-fall hypothetical. But now we’re in the real world of law practice. The Stakes Are High If your […]
How to Use Character Judgments to Win Arguments
There’s no getting around moral judgments. We all make judgments; juries are no exception. Trial consultant Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm describes how this works: …the ability to identify good people matters far more than the ability to identify good acts….[W]e often mix our views of consequences with our views of character. Even harmless actions are more likely to be worthy […]
This Is What Happens When Lawyers Try To Be Funny
Attempts at humor usually fall flat. —Guide for Counsel in Cases to Be Argued Before the Supreme Court of the United States, Part II, pg. 10 (October Term 2014). So says the highest court in the land, but it hasn’t stopped lawyers from trying to be funny. This is what happens when they fail. Knock-Knock […]
How Cross-Examination Bullying Can Wreck Your Case
When a lot of lawyers think of cross-examination, they think of a fight-to-the-death cage match between the lawyer and the witness. They think of scenes like these from prosecutor Juan Martinez’s cross-examination of Jodi Arias: Those of you who don’t want to do cross-examination like this can breathe easy—there’s a better way. You’ve guessed it; […]
Lawyers Whose Direct Examinations Sound Like James Joyce Novels
Direct examination is one of the most important parts of trial. It is your vehicle for establishing the key facts in your case, laying the foundation for your evidence, and connecting with a jury. An effective direct examination doesn’t happen by accident. As Gerry Spence notes, it must be part of a bigger narrative: If […]
Lawyers Who Aren’t Sure How Modern English Works
You don’t have to look far to find legalese in legal writing. Just take the standard closings in affidavits and declarations. Here are three variations used in just one jurisdiction. We can do better. Start by reading Bryan Garner. As Mark Hermann notes, the jury needs to know that you sound like a human being: Remember: Deposition […]