Whether you are a first-year law student, an associate that just joined a law firm, or someone who has been writing legal documents for years, you know that legal writing is something you will be judged on professionally.
Written word is one of the most important tools of the profession. It can inform, advise, persuade; it CAN make a difference between a good and an excellent attorney.
So how do you improve your writing skills? How do you make your writing elegant, credible and professional?
Davorin Marinković, a partner at Dimitrijević & Partners law firm, is here to help with that topic.
15 years of legal experience has taught him how writing skills are essential to legal success; here are his tips and tricks on how to improve yours.
1. What constitutes good legal writing and how to make legal writing have a more professional style and tone?
Good legal writing would mean that the legal advice is straightforward and understandable to a non-lawyer. Preconditions to meet these requirements are to completely understand the issue, to make in depth research of legislation and available practice in that respect and finally to properly digest results of your research being at peace with your final conclusions about the matter. Once you reach this point you are ready to start writing.
2. How do I know that the legal document/contract I’m writing is clear, concise and well-written?
Just imagine that the top executive will rely on your advice and will make a decision that may costs millions without having time for disclaimers and legal details understandable to lawyers only. Once you read the document from that perspective, you will know. Some standard tips are: just use short sentences, put your final conclusion upfront, do not hide your own insecurity by choosing vague wording but rather clearly describe your doubts if your conclusion is not straightforward, avoid to simply quote provisions of laws but rather write your interpretation using standard language, use bullets and divide your text in shorter sections.
3. You’ve mentioned doing deep research when writing? How do I approach researching legal regulations?
Deep research is essential, not only for writing proper legal advice and documents, but for mental health of a lawyer. The only way you can be relaxed and not anxious after sending your opinion to a client is to make sure you checked everything. If you have doubts it will be haunting you for a while. In depth knowledge about legislation and practice will come over time, but even then it is recommendable to use basic methods for researching: using legal guides where the legislation is systemized identifying relevant laws and bylaws, checking websites of competent regulators, asking senior colleagues for tips and read carefully every single piece of legislation about the issue that crossed your path during the research.
4. We’ve been listening extensively about the importance of citations and quoting when we were at faculty. How do I best use them for my legal drafts/documents?
The best way would be not to use them. Nobody likes to read text full of citation and quoting. If you feel more comfortable to point out the legal ground for your conclusion, put them in a footnote. If it is fundamental for your advice and you have to include citations and quoting in the body text, clearly indicate this and provide your own interpretation of the citations and quoting.
5. Are there any templates I can use to speed up the writing process? Or should I start from scratch when writing every new one?
Starting from scratch would be a preference. However, being under constant time pressure, we rarely have such luxury. If you are using templates do not be misguided with previous conclusions or drafting as the matter or situation may be different or would require different approach. Lawyer should always bear in mind that the devil is in the details.
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