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Category: Legal Writing



Magazine

You should apply to our Law Student Editorial Board now—here's why

April 02, 2019

We're excited to announce that we're taking applications for our second Editorial Board of the ABA Law Student Division! Apply for a position on the Board by April 16. "Why apply for this law student editorial board," you ask? Sitting on an editorial board and earning publishing credits in law school is

Seinfeld

A law blog about nothing: Meet SeinfeldLaw

January 14, 2019

Turns out that the show about nothing has a lot to say about the law. SeinfeldLaw is a blog that breaks down the law through the medium of Seinfeld and Seinfeld through the medium of the law.

Cleaned Up

Use (cleaned up) to make your legal writing easier to read

October 03, 2017

Here's a solution to a legal citation problem that comes up all the time. Please bear with me for the intro. It will be worth it. While reading a court decision earlier this year, I came across a passage in which the court quoted authority from an earlier decision which, in

Email

A young attorney’s most important writing: Emails

September 14, 2017

As a young lawyer or intern, most attorneys will judge your lawyerly skills not by reading your appellate briefs or summary judgment motions—but by reading your emails. A young associate’s life is full of quick-and-dirty email assignments. Research questions for partners, summaries of documents—you will spend many of your days

Visualizing

Add reverse outlining to your writing toolbox

September 05, 2017

You probably know that outlining is an important part of the writing process. An outline helps you organize your writing and identify gaps in your analysis. The more complex the material you are writing about, the more important your organization is—and legal analysis is often complex. Most writers outline at

Work Product

You will feel stupid (part 1): Work on your work product!

July 31, 2017

Looking out my office window toward the courthouse door, I am conflicted by the view of the gentleman entering. On one hand, I agree with his obvious belief that John Elway is the greatest quarterback in history (well, retired – Tom Brady may take his place), and I truly appreciate

James Comey

The audacity of 'I Hope' – 2 law school lessons from the James Comey hearings

June 09, 2017

It is not even halfway through 2017, and already, it has been a fascinating year for those practicing in fields of law that intersect with the law at the highest levels of government. We've had the continuing travels of President Donald Trump's executive order on travel limitations from several predominantly Muslim

Citations

A link to the future of legal citations?

May 22, 2017

“Have you watched that video I tagged you in?!” Within a few short years, clever memes and fail videos have taken over social media. If we happen to come across something worth sharing with our friends, social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter allow users to tag their friends

The art of legal writing: How to find your voice

March 01, 2016

In most law school seminars, the instruction of legal writing usually gets broken down into technical details. However, legal writing—just like every other form of writing—is more art than science. You must learn how to tell a story, appeal to an audience, and—after you’ve gotten the mechanics of analysis down—trust your instincts. Over almost a decade of

Arguing Your Authorities

April 01, 2015

As a lawyer in court, you’ll need two intellectual qualities: a head for the law and a head for the facts. Both are essential. You must be able to apply the right rule with common sense, and you must be able to show the

Common Sense in Letter-Writing

March 14, 2015

You’ll be judged by the letters you write—and the emails. That should come as no surprise. People will gauge your intellect, your care, your confidence, your poise, and your considerateness by your letters. Neglect the skill of letter-writing at your peril. Most law students, I’ve discovered in recent years, don’t know

A paperless world? Not so fast

December 14, 2014

Put down your iPad, your Kindle, or other “device”—just for a second. Recent studies have shown that reading in print leads to better comprehension and recall than reading on a screen. That’s according to Myra Orlen, associate professor of legal research and writing and director of academic success programs at Western

The Case for Streamlining Citations

November 01, 2014

A pressing issue in legal writing: We must—absolutely must—develop a short-form method for citing cases, even in a first reference to a case. Given where things stood 20 years ago—when virtually all legal writers stuffed their cumbersome citations mid-text and often mid-sentence—I’m delighted by how many courts have taken to

Why, As a Legal Writer, You Must Research in Two Realms

September 01, 2014

Back in 1985, when I was deciding which law firm I wanted to join as an associate, a pivotal factor for me was that only one of them owned a full run of the Federal Supplement, or F. Supp. The firm was Carrington, Coleman, Sloman & Blumenthal in Dallas. The

Eliminate Zombie Nouns and Minimize Passive Voice

May 01, 2014

One thing you’re certain to be doing in a law-related job is writing. So take every word you write seriously. You’ll be judged by your words. At the sentence level, two perils can spoil your writing: zombie nouns and passive voice. You need to be thoroughly familiar with them, or else

Taming Legal Information Overload

April 01, 2014

It happens every year. A student sits in my office and asks for a life jacket—figuratively, of course. They’re drowning in legal information. It’s a common problem. Legal researchers today deal with a rising sea of legal information. In 2012, for example, the US Courts of Appeals and District Courts published

Growing Up Linguistically

March 01, 2014

A senior lawyer encounters a junior colleague in the law library and asks how the morning’s hearing came out. “The judge came down hard on us. He was like, ‘The doctrine of primary jurisdiction applies only in administrative-law cases.’ And I was like, ‘No, Your Honor, it can have broader

Local Ordinances: The Often Overlooked Laws

February 01, 2014

Quarterbacks. Wide receivers. Running backs. They get all the hype. Offensive linemen? Not so much. And, while it defies logic that such enormous men could be overlooked, they may very well be invisible to the casual football fan. Like an offensive line, local government law is often overlooked. Federal and state

From Rough-Hewn to Refined

January 01, 2014

What’s your biggest challenge as a writer? It’s figuring out, from the mass of things you might possibly mention, precisely what your points are—and then stating them cogently, and with adequate support. Although this advice might seem obvious, legal writers constantly overlook it. The result is a diffuse, aimless style. And

Smart Researchers Save Time by Starting with Legal Treatises

December 01, 2013

“I will not reinvent the wheel.” Say it a few times. Memorize it. Make it your legal research mantra. There’s simply no need to do work that’s already been done. You already have enough to do. In most cases, what you’ll be asked to research isn’t totally new. Someone has

How’s Your Command of Grammar?

November 01, 2013

In the writing seminars I teach for practicing lawyers, I frequently ask how many don’t know what the passive voice is. In a group of 100 or so, typically one or two will fess up. At least 98 percent will claim to know what passive voice is. Then I’ll give

Restatements: An Influential Secondary Source

October 01, 2013

Nobel laureate Niels Bohr once remarked, “It is difficult to predict, especially the future.” Such was the case with Proposition 8 and the Restatement of Agency at the end of the Supreme Court’s latest term. Few likely foresaw that a Restatement would feature prominently in the back and forth between