Bench & Bar

MAR 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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| MARCH/APRIL 2018 46 M any smart lawyers and law students are proofreading sin- ners. Lawyers are professional writers. Clients and judges hold lawyers and their legal writing to a high standard. rough developing proofreading strategies, lawyers can recognize the errors of their ways in legal writing and develop strategies to overcome proofreading errors. Seeing the errors in our ways is harder than it sounds. Proofreading is difficult for any writer because the writer's brain tricks the writer into reading what he or she expects to see. e brain fills gaps and leaps to conclusions about words, letters, symbols, and numbers. 2 Effective proofreading is likely even more difficult for lawyers than for other professional writers. Lawyers live with their clients' prob- lems for so long, that lawyers' brains subconsciously change what is on paper to whatever lawyers expect to see. As difficult as some errors are to catch, proofreading mistakes cause big problems for lawyers. ey distract the reader from the law- yer's message. ey also cause the lawyer to lose credibility and reputation. A recent letter penned by Judge Roy Moore's attorney is a cautionary example of how not to write a demand letter. e attorney and his letter, replete with sloppy errors, were mocked all over the internet. 3 e following is a short excerpt from the letter. 4 Note that your client, to include its agents, have a duty to preserve and maintain evidence. We do, thus, demand that you preserve and protect any potential evidence. Refusal or failure to do so could result in a legal presumption that the spoliated evidence was adverse to you, your company and it's interests. One tongue-in-cheek critique of the letter offered the following suggestion to Roy Moore's lawyer: Nice use of spoliated in a sentence — that actually is a word (although some of us believe it shouldn't be). e big prob- lem here is number agreement . . . . You've also got a bad case of surplus-wordia. What's easier to read: "We do, thus, demand" or "We demand"? ink about it. Finally, note the misplaced apostrophe in the final sentence: Its interests is possessive, exactly like its agents in the first sentence, but in contrast to other possessives, it does not take an apostrophe. Misplaced apostrophes are distracting because they make the writer look dumb or lazy, which is surely not the impres- sion you're hoping to make. Do make time to proofread your work before it goes out, because no other step in the writing process will do more to enhance your credibility as an advocate. . . . 5 In another case, a lawyer petitioning the court for attorney's fees misidentified the court as "THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTER [sic] DISTRICT OF PENNSYL- VANIA" throughout the litigation. 6 e judge was not amused and halved the attorney's requested fee. e attorney responded with continuous errors, including this gem: "[H]ad the Defendants not tired [sic] to paper Plaintiff 's counsel to death, some type [sic] would not have occurred. Furthermore, there have been omissions by the Defendants, thus they should not case [sic] stones." 7 Lawyers do not want to be known for mistakes. ey want to be known for their legal acumen. Getting the message across in a letter full of proofreading errors is compared to "trying a case while wear- ing a gorilla suit: Who can pay attention to the factual substance under the hairy surface?" 8 e best way for a lawyer to minimize errors is to "go out of mind" when proofreading. One of the most effective ways to proofread "out of mind" is to use a proofreading buddy who reads a hard copy of the document while the lawyer reads out loud from the original. Fresh eyes spot typos, spelling errors, apostrophe misuse, and punctuation errors that the writer cannot see. e person with distance from the client's legal issue is truly out of the writer's mind. Most lawyers do not have a person in the office to proofread every piece of legal writing. Also, the buddy technique is not always practical, given lawyers' time pressures and workloads. e lawyer also makes the final call about editing and proofreading because the lawyer knows exactly what he or she means to say. Although the lawyer must develop an individual strategy that works, here are proofreading tips to help the solo proofreading lawyer see errors. 9 EFFECTIVE LEGAL WRITING

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