3 Tips for Becoming a Dangerous Persuasive Writer
Persuasive writing can be a dangerous thing in the hands of a lawyer.
It's not just something to play around with in law school. Serious persuasive writing comes from the school of hard knocks.
That's because judges don't usually compliment lawyers for their writing -- even when they rule in their favor. If you really want to become a killer writer, do it like your life depends on it. Here are some weapons:
Bad writing is to persuasive writing what a bad complexion is to a face. It's hard to appreciate an argument if the flaws are so apparent. Misspell a word, garble grammar, or write like you're illiterate, and nobody will believe you.
It's about credibility. If you haven't mastered basic language skills, your persuasive writing skills are going to be lost in translation.
So put on your Hemingway hat, write concisely, check your grammar, and press spell-check.
Obviously, lawyers should cite cases and statutes, but the authority in the courtroom is the one wearing the robe.
Before you number your points and authorities, check out your judge's past rulings. Many judges post their tentatives and probably have already ruled on your issue in another case.
If you can, talk to lawyers who have dealt with the judge. You may discover biases that you will need to overcome. The courtroom clerk also may give tips on preferred formats, brief length, pet peeves, etc.
Some judges are not as bound by legal precedent as by reason. They may be the highest authority in the matter or simply free-thinking.
In any case, reasonable minds are guided by reason. Some say you should argue the facts if the law is not on your side. But always give your judge enough law to withstand appeal and never give bad authority or weak legal grounds.
If you are trying to persuade a judge incorrectly, it could come back to haunt you in the form of sanctions or a bad reputation. That could be very dangerous to a lawyer's career.
- Classic, Plain-Language Writing Tips (FindLaw's Strategist)
- 6 Top Writing Tips for Lawyers (FindLaw's Strategist)
- 5 Tips to Improve Your Legal Writing (FindLaw's Strategist)
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