Monday, January 26, 2009

the moral obligation of legal writing

Sammons "Lawyers have a moral obligation to write well." That's the provocative thesis of a recent essay by Mercer's Griffin Bell Professor of Law Jack Sammons, in The Complete Lawyer. Sammons observes that morality and language are "inextricably linked," and he posits that "the language of the law is used well when it is used honestly to persuade another person; when the identification between writer and reader that persuasion seeks is an accomplishment of the conversation itself rather than a recognition of a shared identity formed prior to it . . . ."

Sammons's essay ends with "praise and a plea":

My praise is for those professors of legal writing—the newest, most challenged, and most challenging teachers in legal education—who have accepted the protection of our living speech through their students as their own moral obligation.

My plea is to those true teachers of the law, the mentors of our apprentices, to encourage those in their charge to make the language of the law their own, to keep it alive, and to see in their work with words, however mundane it may at times seem, an opportunity for an expression of self—and in this to come to appreciate the moral obligations we have as lawyers towards our living speech.

To read the full essay, click here.

hat tip: Linda Berger


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