Legal Writing Tips
10 Tips for Transitioning to Legal Writing – Georgetown University Law Center.
Phil Franckel’s tips:
- Avoid writing in legalese – Write in plain English.
- Basic grammar should generally be followed but not strictly – Don’t be afraid to start a sentence with And or But.
- Write with a sense of excitement or drama. You never want to bore your reader to sleep! For instance, The plaintiff was at a complete stop on Main Street, for approximately 20 seconds, with her left turn signal on. She was waiting for an oncoming vehicle to pass so she could make her left turn. Suddenly, the defendant’s SUV slammed her car in the rear so hard that it tore her rotator cuff and bicep.
- Use headers and/or sub headers for paragraphs.
- Use short sentences and short paragraphs.
- Make sure the formatting of sentences is correct – Make sure that there are no extra spaces; periods instead of commas; misspelled words, etc.
- Do not quote too many cases! 2 cases cited in your favor and 1 case opposing should be your limit. Obviously, always state why the opposing case is different from the facts in your case and why it does not apply in your case.
You’ve heard “Who, What, When, Where, How, Why” – Who cares? You care, if you want the judge to care. The two I see missing from most legal papers are (In order of importance):
- Why – For every legal point, always explain the why. Don’t be afraid to use the word because. If you’re stating a point, you must explain why it applies.
Law School Bluebook Basics – a short easy to read primer.
Introduction to Basic Legal Citation – Everything you need to know about citations for legal writing from Cornell University Law School.
Good headings show you’ve thought out your arguments well in advance – One of my favorites. I always use headings for important paragraphs which makes reading motions and legal briefs easier and quicker. When you want to judge to rule in your favor, make it easier for the judge to read!
Professor Allison Ortlieb’s Bluebook Videos – Video lessons at Youtube on using the Bluebook.
1L’s Guide to the Bluebook – Professor Trace McGaugh (27.5 minutes)
Using the Bluebook – Boston University School of Law Libraries
How to Format Pleadings
How to Format Pleadings – More tips on how to format legal pleadings, expanding on the video above.