Writing for Lawyers:
Drafting Strong, Clear Sentences
November 20, 2014
12:00 p.m. - 1:00 p.m. EST
Available Media Formats:
WHY YOU SHOULD ATTEND
As lawyers and judges spend less and less time reading memos, briefs, and other documents, legal writers must ensure that their documents are concise and easy to digest. The basic building block of any legal document is the sentence, so strengthening sentence structure is key to producing effective legal documents.
WHAT YOU WILL LEARN
In this program, we will tackle the key rules of grammar and style that are most often broken in otherwise good legal writing. Participants will learn practical strategies for eliminating common weaknesses such as convoluted sentences, non-parallel form, and unclear referents. The program will also cover strategies for crafting sentences that reflect the specific purpose of the document – whether that purpose is to advise, analyze, or persuade.
Based on examples taken from typical legal documents, the program will address strategies for:
- writing clear, concrete sentences about complex legal issues
- creating emphasis and balance within sentences
- avoid the most common word-choice mistakes of good legal writers
This program covers strategies that apply to legal writing generally, including memoranda, briefs, letters, and emails. The program is geared toward junior attorneys but provides a useful review for attorneys at all levels.
- Sentence structure in legal documents (45 minutes)
- Be concise.
- Avoid "throat clearers" (it should be noted that . . .).
- Use specific subjects (avoid there and it).
- Use strong verbs.
- Prefer active voice, absent a specific reason to use passive voice.
- Avoid nominalizations: Uncover hidden verbs.
- Be clear.
- Place modifiers carefully.
- Place modifier close to word modified.
- Don't split subject, verb and object with long modifier.
- Use commas correctly.
- Create balance and emphasis.
- Use parallel form.
- Create emphasis within sentences.
(Speaker: Dianne Rosky)
- Word choice in legal documents (15 minutes)
- Avoid compound constructions (at this point in time, the fact that).
- Avoid lazy adverbs and adjectives (clearly, very).
- Avoid elegant variation (don't substitute agreement for contract).
- Make referents clear: don't use which, it, such and this to refer generally to prior ideas.
(Speaker: Dianne Rosky)