By Claire Crowley • April 12, 2017•Writers in Residence
From the moment we learn to write our names as children to the moment we take the essay portion of the bar exam and begin writing memos for clients, writing is an omnipresent activity that follows us through life. For some, writing is a delightful hobby and for others it’s a dreaded chore but either way, writing is vital to succeeding in law school and beyond.
I’ve always loved to write. I recently found an old diary of mine from when I was ten years old. I vented into its pages my frustrations of having to share a room with my older brother and disclosed with excitement the birthday gifts that I received and shopping trips to the mall. Twenty years later, I’m still writing, albeit not in a diary covered in kitten stickers. In addition to my legal blog, Legal Travels, I’ve embarked on a new challenge, writing a legal book. As a legal blogger, attorney and amateur author I’ve compiled three tips that I would like to share with my fellow Ms. JD readers and writers.
It’s always important to remember who you’re writing for. Take a moment before you begin writing to think about your audience. Who will be reading your work? In law school your audience is mostly comprised of your professors and your peers who ensure that your work adheres to a rigid IRAC formula (issue, rule, application of the rule to the issue and conclusion) and even the most nuanced of Bluebook citation rules. While this structured style of writing is aimed at ensuring that students learn the proper way to examine issues and formulate arguments, it’s important to remember that you won’t be writing for your professors for your entire legal life and legal career. Your audience will change over time.
If you’re communicating in writing to a client, remember who that client is. Where do they come from? What legal issues are they facing? After writing my first letter to a client while working at Legal Services, I had to be reminded that many of our clients had low levels of literacy. I had to tone down my law school writing habits in exchange for communicating in simple, short sentences which was best for that client base. On the other hand, polished and detailed writing might work best for your particular client or field of practice. You want to be sure that your client understands your writing.
If you’re writing a legal blog or a book, try to identify the audience that will be consuming your content. Determine if you’re trying to appeal to laypersons, practicing attorneys or perhaps a mixture of both. Picture who you want your audience to be and adjust your tone, content and style accordingly.
Before you begin writing, think about the message that you want to convey to your audience. What do you want your audience to take with them after they’re done reading your content? If you’re trying to teach your audience something through your writing, you need to be thorough in your explanations of the topic. If you’re giving instructions to your audience, provide them with short, simple steps to make sure the goal is accomplished. If you’re examining a nuanced law in detail, be sure not to forget to give your audience some relatable context. The point you are trying to convey to your audience will also influence the platform by which you choose to communicate.
Platform is an important consideration, especially when writing a legal blog or book. If you’re writing a legal book you should consider your publishing options. There are a multitude of ways to deliver your content to your audience, whether it be by ebook, self-publishing, print on demand or going through a traditional book publisher. When blogging, consider how easily your audience can reach your site online. Do you have a simple domain name? Will you be using WordPress or Blogger? Will you use Twitter or Facebook to drive more readers to your site? Do some research into what platform works best for your content and your audience.
Do you have any other tips or suggestions that you’d like to share? Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org