Saturday, October 4, 2014

Ten tips for legal writing

Bryan Garner's latest article in the ABA Journal is titled Ten Tips for Better Legal Writing. Some Garnerof his tips are especially appropriate for law students, who could appropriately paste "Don't rely exclusively on computer research" on the wall by their work space. That would serve as a reminder that unfocused computer searches are like a box of chocolates--you never know what you're going to get.  Garner also advises legal writers to be neither too tentative nor too cocksure in their conclusions, both of which are hazards for beginning law students. And Garner's tenth tip would improve the professionalism of many a student paper: "Proofread one more time than you think necessary."


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Garner’s right that lawyers shouldn’t rely solely on computer-based research, but his comments suggest he’s otherwise clueless about research. He seems to think CJS and Am. Jur. are available only in print, but both are available on Westlaw. Garner is also wrong to suggest that either source is important. Because they’re not jurisdiction-specific, both sources are useful only as a last resort by lawyers who are desperate to find persuasive authority from other states – but only if the client is willing to spend heavily on research. One wonders if Garner has ever practiced law. I have clerked for a state appellate judge, practiced law for a decade, and taught research and writing to first-year law students for another decade. I’ve never consulted either source, and I don’t teach them to students. They aren’t worth the time and trouble.

Posted by: juris_prudence | Oct 5, 2014 10:34:41 AM

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