LovelyLadyLaw7

A Conclusion to This Column: Time to Put Away Those Pencils (But Not for Good)

To all of my readers, this marks my last column installment on the topic of “Legal Writing Skills: A Tool of the Lawyer’s Trade.”  As I write this final installment, I can only hope each of you has benefitted from this column as much as I have.  For my part, the process of writing this column has been enlightening and gratifying, similar to how I imagine the process of writing an autobiography would be.  By writing about the topics that caught my attention and piqued my interest while I served as a judicial clerk a couple of years ago, I’ve…

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LovelyLadyLaw7

Proofreading in Legal Writing: Make It Clean (As Much As Humanly Possible)

If you’ve ever wondered how the brain creates the reality that each of us experiences or if you enjoy testing your brain with fun mental exercises, then Brain Games is the show for you.  Brain Games is a show on the National Geographic Channel that demonstrates the brain’s abilities (and, at times, shortcomings) through games and experiments as the viewer plays along.  In doing so, it also shows how easily the brain can be duped (check out episode 8 in the second season to see what I mean).  After all, how many times have you sent out an e-mail thinking…

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LovelyLadyLaw7

A Word on Literalism

Talk to you later.  Sounds good.  I hear that.  You said it.  If you had to characterize these phrases right off the bat, how would you characterize them?  Would you recognize them as idioms or expressions that people like to include in their everyday conversations?  If so, what do all of these expressions have in common?  Well, if you'd like to get "technical" about it, then something they all literally imply is that words (or sounds) have come out of or will come out of someone's mouth.  And yet people (myself included) seem to feel comfortable using such expressions on…

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LovelyLadyLaw7

A Word on the Use of Legal Jargon

Quick.  Let's play a game called "Can You Spot the Legalese?" Wherefore, in light of her cause of action sounding in negligence and for the premises heretofore considered, the plaintiff prays that this honorable court grant such relief as it may deem just, fair, and proper. Did you count at least five examples of legalese just now?  Congratulations.  You have an eye for discerning legalese, which is literally defined by the online Merriam-Webster Dictionary (see https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/legalese) as "the language used by lawyers that is difficult for most people to understand" (aka legal jargon), and you're in a good position for…

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LovelyLadyLaw7

Creativity in Legal Writing: Make It Interesting

As a public relations student, I regularly encountered the opportunity to be creative during my undergraduate school years.  Whether by creating newsletters, designing brochures, or planning fundraising projects from scratch, I was "always," as a public relations professor of mine once put it, "coming up with new things."  Fast forward a few years to my first year of law school, and suddenly my creative side seemed to fade away as the concept of "IRAC"/"CREAC" ("Issue-Rule-Application-Conclusion"/"Conclusion-Rule-Explanation-Analysis-Conclusion") swiftly engulfed every piece of legal writing I undertook.  During my second year of law school, I took notice that my creative juices were at…

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LovelyLadyLaw7

A Word on Party References

One of the first decisions I made as a practicing attorney following my judicial clerkship concerned how to refer in my legal writing to the defendant I was representing.  As a judicial clerk, the decision had been easy: I was to continue the method established in previous judicial opinions of referring to the defendant in the case for which an opinion was being drafted by party name (i.e., "the Defendant") after her or his full name was given.  In contrast, as a practicing attorney no longer bound to any one way, the decision on how to refer to my client suddenly became my own, and…

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LovelyLadyLaw7

Consistency in Legal Writing: Make It the Same (to an Extent)

Starting a new job, whether as a lawyer or some other professional, is no easy business.  No matter how much education and prior work experience someone has accrued prior to starting a new job, each new job seems to come with its own set of challenges.  When I started my position as a judicial clerk, I was fortunate enough to have wonderful colleagues who were willing to show me the ropes; that said, it still took time and effort for me to scale those ropes. Of the various ropes I learned to climb during the course of my judicial clerkship, the most…

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LovelyLadyLaw7

Cohesion in Legal Writing: Make It Flow

In the world of science, the concept of cohesion refers to the "act, state or process of sticking together," as when, for example, a water molecule attracts to another water molecule.  (See http://www.biology-online.org/dictionary/Cohesion.)  In the world of legal writing, the concept carries essentially the same meaning, albeit in a different context.  While molecular forces act as the glue that holds molecules together in a substance, words in a sentence are what allow the sentences in a paragraph to stick together.  But, given that the concept of cohesion isn't exactly linguistically self-explanatory, how does a legal writer achieve cohesion in a…

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LovelyLadyLaw7

A Word on the Use of Third Person Pronouns

To use a pronoun or not to use a pronoun.  That is the question.  (Or at least it should be.)  People love their pronouns not only in writing (whether legal or otherwise) but also in conversation.  The problem, however, is that, although pronouns are generally valuable as shortcuts, they are also inherently ambiguous when the reader or the listener can't be certain about the intended antecedent of a pronoun.  For example, I can't count the number of times I've left a conversation feeling confused about the meaning of a pronoun (not to mention the number of times I've had to ask the…

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LovelyLadyLaw7

A Word on the Use of “That,” “Of,” and Variants of “It is”

As a judicial clerk, I quickly learned I enjoyed using the word "that."  I also apparently enjoyed using the word "of."  How do I know this?  My co-clerks, who were assigned the task of initially editing the drafts of judicial opinions I had written, weren't as crazy about those words and expressed their preference with red circles to indicate deletion.  In other words, those were words commonly edited out of my drafts (and for good reason).  For my part, I tried to avoid the construction "it is" or "there are" when not referring to an actual antecedent and partook in some circling…

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