Monday, February 6, 2012

Good Legal Writing

Below is one of the many emails received from Jurisdictionary .  In this discussion, I encourage everyone to keep this point in mind:
"..Every word has a purpose ... to make your winning record.."
and do read below from previous email:
Want to drive your opponents nuts?
Tie them down with word-power!

( From "How to Win" Step-by-Step Self-Help Course )

What is good legal writing?
I want you to think about this question ... hard and long!
What is your goal?
  • Impress the judge?
  • Confuse the opponent?
  • Or, win the case?
Everything we do in life has in one sense or another a particular goal. Some things we do are automatic, like breathing, yet there is always a goal. In business, the goal is to provide a benefit to others. In sports, the goal is to perform to the highest of our athletic ability. In law, the goal is to make a winning record in writing!

Many lawyers and most pro se litigants miss this point ... they get sidetracked with unimportant distractions!

Every word spoken in a courtroom or written on paper filed with the clerk or served on the other side must aim toward this specific goal.
All words that aren't aimed at making a winning record must go!
Since 1997 when Jurisdictionary began, people have sent documents for review. In all but a few the punch, power, and persuasive effect could be improved by eliminating 90% of the words and by keeping only those aimed at making a winning record.

Most of what came for review read more like the writer was trying to tell a story, rather than trying to make a winning court record of relevant facts and controlling law!
Legal writing is NOT story-telling!

Any fact that's not "relevant" and any law that's not "controlling" should be eliminated.

I rebuilt a few car engines in my youth. I removed bolts, nuts, gaskets, and pins. I placed the removed parts on a sheet of cardboard on the floor of my garage. All was arranged neatly in order. When the time came to put the engine back together, every part had a place, and that's where I put each part ... in its place!
A place for every part. Every part in its place.

I didn't add any parts! I didn't leave any parts out!
That's good legal writing!
Every word has a purpose ... to make your winning record.

More years ago than I like to remember, I worked as a reporter for the Tampa Times newspaper. My city editor was ruthless with my writing. I learned from him. Since being admitted to the bar in 1986, I've applied what he taught me. "Say what needs to be said then stop!"

What was true for newspaper writing is doubly true for legal writing.
Say what needs to be said and stop!

Write like you were "speaking" to an 8th grader. You aren't Jimmy Buffet. You don't need a "novelist's eye" or a "bartender's ear". You aren't telling a story! You're assembling essential parts of a powerful engine.

That's what good legal writing does! Each part has a specific purpose.
What I teach will empower your legal paperwork and give you the competitive edge you need to win!
Want to drive your opponents nuts?
Tie them down with word-power!
I've been a lawyer since 1986, and what I tell you here (and with more details in my "How to Win in Court" step-by-step self-help course) will empower you to stuff your opponents in a neatly-packaged word-box and win your case hands-down!

Many lawyers never understand this ... so they lose, needlessly.

Most pro se people never understand this, either ... so they lose, needlessly.

The key is nothing harder than writing simple sentences.
  • Short sentences.
  • Powerful sentences.
  • Sentences with ONE VERB.
  • Sentences with ONE SUBJECT.
Sentences that EACH HAVE THEIR OWN PARAGRAPH NUMBER! That's right. Every sentence gets its own paragraph, and each of those paragraphs has a separate number. (The course gives sample forms to show you how.)

One sentence per numbered paragraph. One subject. One verb. And only the absolutely necessary adjectives and adverbs.If it's important to note that your opponent's nose was gigantic, say so. Otherwise, leave it out! Too many adjectives and adverbs just complicate your case unnecessarily, give the other side more things to argue about ... things that ultimately have nothing to do with what it takes to win!

A sentence is a complete thought. Mrs. Edgerton taught me that in Second Grade. It's helped me win countless court battles.

Every simple sentence starts with a capital letter, ends with a period, and contains just one verb, and just one subject. No commas or semi-colons unless absolutely, positively necessary and for a purpose that promotes your cause!
Consider these two sets of numbered paragraphs:
Set 1
  • Defendant was very forceful and convincing when he said he would spray my strawberry plants every week during the four months I was away on business in Europe shopping for priceless art treasures for my adorable wife, however he did not at any time while I was gone spray my strawberries, because he was off playing poker in Las Vegas and losing his shirt, so I lost most of my strawberry crop this year to tiny green bugs that ate the beautiful white strawberry blossoms before my plants could bear their luscious fruit.
  • I paid defendant $2,000 before leaving for Europe, and he didn't ask for any more money, so I assumed he would do what he said he would do, but he didn't, so I lost a great deal of money.
  • This is why I have sued him.
Set 2
  • Plaintiff and defendant entered a written agreement.
  • Copy of agreement attached as Exhibit A.
  • Defendant promised to spray plaintiff's strawberries with insecticide from 5 December 2009 through 15 April 2010.
  • Defendant agreed to do the job for $2,000.
  • Plaintiff paid Defendant $2,000 on 1 December 2009.
  • Defendant failed to spray plaintiff's strawberries.
  • Plaintiff suffered money damages exceeding $15,000.
Each sentence has it's own paragraph number.
Each sentence has one verb, one subject.
Each sentence has minimal adjectives or adverbs.
Each sentence is a complete thought.
There can be no doubt what your words mean!
Winning in court is all about effective communication.
Communicate effectively with simple sentences.
If the above doesn't get your Attention? Follow this>> link <<
Another Companion Document

Reason for Law Book
  ~Using Your Law Book

Related Reading: 

May you find Strength in Your Higher Power,
 GranPa Chuck