Sunday, December 20, 2009
Minnesota bankruptcy Judge Robert Kressel has issued a set of mandatory drafting guidelines for all attorneys submitting proposed orders for his signature. Some of the judge's guidelines reflect what is already commonly considered good practice (i.e. avoiding superfluous words) while other rules seem more idiosyncratic. Given the bankruptcy court's likely caseload these days, he's entitled.
Keep in mind that some of the judge's rules on "good" writing might not always apply in the legal writing classroom because we've got a different audience and goals in mind. For instance, Judge Kressel forbids lawyers from paraphrasing statutory language in any proposed orders they submit to him. I'm guessing that many legal writing profs tell students just the opposite; never quote statutory language when paraphrasing will do the job more simply and concisely. Our goal is a pedagogical one in that requiring students to explain statutory language in their own words better helps them learn it while the judge is trying to save time and avoid the mistakes that result when lawyers inadvertently misstate the law in their submissions to the court. The point being that instead of using Judge Kressel's order as example to your students of good writing practice (which for the most part it is) it might better serve as both an example to students about the importance of knowing one's audience as well as showing them that good writing really matters in the real world. At least that's my take on it.
A big 'ol tip of the hat to the Law Librarian Blog for turning me on this story.
I am the scholarship dude.