Wednesday, June 18, 2008

what judges really think about lawyers' writing

Kristenkonradtiscionegeorgetown Georgetown legal writing prof Kristen Robbins-Tiscione has posted her 2002 article, titled The Inside Scoop: What Federal Judges Really Think about the Way Lawyers Write, and originally published in Volume 8 of Legal Writing: the Journal of the Legal Writing Institute, on SSRN, where it is getting renewed attention. The abstract lays out some troubling statistics, which likely have not improved in the six years since Robbins-Tiscione completed her analysis:

A recent survey indicates that what troubles federal judges most is not what lawyers say but what they fail to say when writing briefs. Although lawyers do a good job articulating legal issues and citing controlling, relevant legal authority, they are not doing enough with the law itself. Only fifty-six percent of the judges surveyed said that lawyers "always" or "usually" make their client's best arguments. Fifty-eight percent of the judges rated the quality of the legal analysis as just "good," as opposed to "excellent" or "very good." The problem seems to be that briefs lack rigorous analysis, and the bulk of the work is left to busy judges. Many judges also indicated that lawyers often make redundant or weak arguments that detract from the good ones. What judges really want is shorter, harder hitting briefs.

Prof. Robbins-Tiscione has been busy since writing this article. Her scholarship/bio web page at Georgetown reveals that she has two more works about to be published: Rhetoric for Legal Writers (St. Paul, Minn.: Thomson/West forthcoming) and From Snail Mail to E-Mail: The Traditional Legal Memorandum in the Twenty-First Century, J. Legal Educ. (forthcoming 2008).

hat tip on the SSRN posting to our colleagues at the Law Librarian Blog


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