Attorney Resources

2 minutes reading time (305 words)

President's Message

President's Message

"Why can't they be like we were, perfect in every way?" --Bye Bye Birdie (1960)

Lawyers should write like Ernest Hemingway. 

Pick up one of his books; open to a page at random; choose any paragraph; read it. See for yourself: 

"We packed the lunch and two bottles of wine in the rucksack, and Bill put it on. I carried the rodcase and the landing nets slung over my back. We started up the road and then went across a meadow and found a path that crossed the fields and went toward the woods on the slope of the first hill. We walked across the fields on the sandy path. The fields were rolling and grassy and the grass was short from the sheep grazing. The cattle were up in the hills. We heard their bells in the woods." 

What's missing? Adverbs!

Lawyers should write like Ernest Hemingway.

I am convinced that lawyers, by and large, do not know how to write, or at least do not know how to write well. We were taught in law school to write in formulaic, lawyer language. The result was to create a product that lawyers—and perhaps judges—understood, but no one else did. Was that the idea? If it worked at all then, it does not now. 

So, read Bryan Garner's "Legal Writing in Plain English;" Michael Tigar's "Persuasion: The Litigator's Art;" Stephen King's "On Writing, a Memoir of the Craft;" Strunk & White's "The Elements of Style." Read anything. 

To write well, you must read—a lot and often. Read fiction (Hemingway, Fitzgerald). Read nonfiction (Bill Bryson, Michael Lewis). Read biography (David McCullough, Robert Caro). 

Who is your audience? What are you trying to do? What do you want them to hear? What do you want to convey? How are you going to do that in the most effective way? Think. Then write. And think some more.

And skip the adverbs.

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Monday, 30 March 2020

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