Wednesday, March 5, 2008
Here's something to try in your next legal writing problem: give the characters in your problem names that end in the letter "s."
Steven and Kathy Adams are two characters in the problem my students are working on right now. The students have to figure out how to refer to them. Is it the Adams, the Adams', the Adam's, the Adams's, the Adamses, the Adamses', or something else entirely?
The goal of using client names that end in "s" is to have students learn now how to write about those clients. I encourage students to look up the correct usages themselves in a grammar and style book (and not simply an on-line grammar check), so that they will be able to go back to that source years from now when they need to do it again when they are working in law firms or clerking for judges.
There are lots of great client names that end in "s": Jones, Thomas, or Gonzales, for example.
You might also find students who will do everything they can to avoid learning the correct plural usage: they will write only about "our clients" or "the plaintiffs" to avoid having to look in a grammar and style book. One of my students decided to handle the current problem by writing about "the Adams Family."
I have now used client names that end in the letter s for several years, and recommend this to you for one of your future writing problems. I believe it does help to get students find a grammar book that they will continue to use later in their writing careers.
Mark E. Wojcik, The John Marshall Law School-Chicago