Bench & Bar

JUL 2018

The Bench & Bar magazine is published to provide members of the KBA with information that will increase their knowledge of the law, improve the practice of law, and assist in improving the quality of legal services for the citizenry.

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| JULY/AUGUST 2018 38 O ne of my favorite books on writing is Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott. 1 A respected author of both novels and non-fiction, Lamott's engaging volume offers useful advice for all writers working to improve their craft. Also an instructor, Lamott hears regularly, "But you can't teach writing." 2 To which she replies, "'Who the hell are you, God's dean of admissions?'" 3 Having completed my first year of teach- ing at the Brandeis School of Law, I agree with the protestations, and I also agree with Lamott. You can't "teach writing," but you can teach about writing. No amount of classroom instruction will transform anyone into a master wordsmith. But edu- cation on fundamentals combined with practical advice can help put students on the path to proficiency. Decades of writing in the legal, public policy, and political arenas (and a two-year stint as a food columnist) have taught me that one of the most difficult skills to cul- tivate is editing your own work. We all can get too wedded to our own prose. Even seasoned writers may resist wreaking the necessary havoc on a brief or memo over which they have labored long. Substantive self-editing is an art, and every writer's objective assessment of his or her own work improves with time and practice, but the basic process doesn't change. Here are a few tips I shared with my Lawyering Skills class. EDIT BEFORE YOU WRITE: Although this sounds counterintuitive, steps you take before you ever put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard will reduce the amount of editing required later. FOCUS ON YOUR INTENDED AUDIENCE Your intended audience is never yourself, and only rarely is it your client. Your writing must be geared to the reader you want to inform or persuade. A research memo for your partner should have an objective voice. And, while both are persuasive documents, a motion to compel to the trial judge will have different tone than a Supreme Court brief. Your demand letter to opposing coun- sel requires yet another style. Approach your writing with your reader in mind. ORGANIZE YOUR THOUGHTS Everyone needs to do this, but everyone Embrace e Red Pen doesn't need to do this the same way. Some writers make formal outlines. Others jot notes on index cards, or on the cases them- selves, reshuffling them as their thinking evolves. Do whatever works best for you. e approach is irrelevant: the goal is to synthesize your research into a logical approach to your writing project. ONCE YOU HAVE A DRAFT ON PAPER: WRITE, READ, REWRITE, REREAD …. A fully formed first draft is like a unicorn: it doesn't exist. Your first draft will be awful. It will be too long and too wordy and, despite your best efforts to organize your thoughts, often incoherent. You want to believe there's merit there, and there undoubtedly is — some. But the document will need multiple revisions to transform it into the quality product you want your reader to see. 4 e more lengthy, important, or complex your document is, the more drafts it is likely to take. My students were highly skeptical when I emphasized the importance of mul- tiple revisions, especially for major court EFFECTIVE LEGAL WRITING

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