By Joanna Nakamoto • November 21, 2016•Writers in Residence
Ethos, pathos, logos. All law students are taught in their first-year legal writing courses (sometimes earlier) that in order to write a winning argument you must utilize ethos, pathos, and logos. Logos is taught extensively in law school where we spend hours on end eating, digesting, and regurgitating court opinions and analyzing them step-by-step. Ethos is also taught extensively in classes when professors mercilessly harp on the policy reasons behind court opinions and congressional actions. But pathos? Pathos is special because it cannot be taught. It originates beyond a textbook or any other course a law school can offer. It is the wild spirit that lives in all of us which boasts our passions and motivates our pursuits. If it goes untamed it has the power to ruin relationships and even put people in jail. Yet, properly harnessed, it can become the most powerful tool for any advocate fighting for something.
One of the best places to refine one’s pathos is through free writing, either in a personal journal or if intended to benefit others, in the form of a blog. Writing freely allows your spirit to be released within the loose confines of a particular topic. Free movements of a pen or keystrokes on a keyboard let a law student or lawyer’s thought process go from their mind, directly down to a medium unfiltered and untamed, where it can be immortalized forever. A person’s pathos can be carefully articulated through unapologetic thoughts spilled out on paper with proper grammar, syntax, and spelling. That is what is so liberating about writing for a blog as a law student or lawyer; the freedom to express yourself while exploring that special pathos connection with readers. Appealing to a person’s pathos is a necessary skill for any advocate, and it can be refined and practiced extensively through blog writing.