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  • Concrete Ways to Improve Your Legal Drafting

    ChrisBowers

    GovernmentLawSectionDallasBarAssociation

    September 13, 20131

  • AttorneyDisclaimers

    Strictlymyviews

    Consultyourattorney

    Useatyourownrisk

  • Whatislegaldrafting?

    Sometimes asking the oppositequestion is more helpful.

    3

  • ExampleofIllegaldrafting

  • Manylawyersdraftpoorly

    94%offederalandstatejudgessurveyedreportedthatbasicwritingproblemsroutinelymarredthebriefstheyread.

    SusanH.Kosse &DavidT.ButleRitchie,HowJudges,Practitioners,andLegalWritingTeachersAssesstheWritingSkillsofNewLawGraduates:AComparativeStudy,53J.LegalEduc.80,8586(2003).

    5

  • ManylawyersdraftpoorlyThissearchinWestlawsAllFederal&Statecasesdatabase

    POOR!SLOPP!AWKWAR!BAD!DEFECTIV!CARELES!NEGLIGEN!SLAPDASHSLIPSHODSHODD!INEPT!AMATEU!CLUMS!INELEGAN!DEFICIEN!DREADFU!TERRIBL!AWFUL!THOUGHTLES!HORRIBL!APPALL!WORSEWORSTINADEQUAT!INFERIO!/5DRAFT!WRIT!COMPOS!/6DOCUMENTINSTRUMENTORDINANCELAWCODELEGISLATIONSTATUTEREGULATIONPROVISIONRULEBYLAWBYLAWRESOLUTIONCONTRACTAGREEMENTDEEDEASEMENTLEASE

    retrieved4,527casesinJune2013,withthemostrecenttwobeing10daysold.

    6

  • DraftingisimportantAn American Bar Foundationsurvey of practicing lawyersconcluded: [o]ral and writtencommunication skills are deemedto be the very most importantskills necessary for beginninglawyers.BryantG.Garth&JoanneMartin,LawSchoolsandtheConstructionofCompetence,43J.LegalEduc.469,50809(1993).

    7

  • DraftingisimportantThe ABF survey also concluded:[Law firm] partners expect thoseskills to be possessed by theassociates, even though they arenot much taught in the lawschools.BryantG.Garth&JoanneMartin,LawSchoolsandtheConstructionofCompetence,43J.LegalEduc.469,50809(1993).

    8

  • Whyisgoodlegalwritingimportant?

    Writingisattheheartofthelegalprofession

    "Goodwritingresultsfromgood,disciplinedthinking.Toworkonyourwritingistoimproveyouranalyticalskills."

    BryanA.Garner,"TheMad,MadWorldofLegalWriting,"GarneronLanguageandWriting.AmericanBarAssociation,2009

    9

  • Whyisgoodlegalwritingimportant?

    2reasonstowritewell

    helpyoudoyourjobbetter

    advanceyourcareer

    10

  • Whatisgoodlegalwriting?Goodwritingissimplyspeechheightenedandpolished."BryanA.Garner,LegalWritinginPlainEnglish:ATextwithExercises49(2001)(quotingJudgeJeromeFrank,AMansReach:thePhilosophyofJudgeJeromeFrank38(1977))

    Goodwritingisclearthinkingmadevisible.QuotationvariouslyattributedtoAmbroseBierceorBillWheeler

    11

  • Whatisgoodlegalwriting?

    Goodwritingsatisfiestheneedsanddesiresofthereadingaudience

    Goodlegalwritinghelpsthereadertomakeimportantdecisions

    MarkK.Osbeck,WhatisGoodLegalWritingandWhyDoesitMatter?,4DrexelL.Rev.417,42526(2012)

    12

  • Whatarequalitiesofgoodlegalwriting?

    Fourqualitiesofgoodlegalwriting Clear Concise Engaging Elegant

    MarkK.Osbeck,WhatisGoodLegalWritingandWhyDoesitMatter?,4DrexelL.Rev.417,422(2012)

    13

  • 1.Usethe4stepwritingprocess

    1. Madman2. Architect3. Carpenter4. Judge

    BettySueFlowers,Madman,Architect,Carpenter,Judge:RolesandtheWritingProcess, 58LanguageArts83436(Oct.1981)

    14

  • Usethe4stepwritingprocess1. Madman/brainstormer/researcher

    Writedownall ideas

    Askothersfortheirideas

    Withholdjudgmentaboutideas

    15

  • Usethe4stepwritingprocess

    2.Architect/Organizer/Outliner

    Selectbestideas

    Arrangeideasinpatterns

    Putmostimportantideasfirst

    16

  • Usethe4stepwritingprocess3.Carpenter/builder/writer

    Putideastogetherlogically

    Ensureeachsentenceisclear,contributestotheargument,andleadsgracefullytothenextsentence

    Fillindetails,butdonotedit!

    17

  • Usethe4stepwritingprocess

    4.Judge/editor/qualitycontrolinspector

    Editpunctuation,spelling,grammar,andtone

    Askotherstoedit

    18

  • 2.Organizeyourwriting

    Thecourtgrantedthedefendantsmotiontodismissforseveralreasons,includingpoororganization, stating:Acomplaintmaybesopoorlycomposedastobefunctionallyillegible.

    Duncanv.AT&TCommunications,Inc.,668F.Supp.232,234(S.D.N.Y.1987)

    19

  • Organizeyourwriting

    Organizematerialtoservethereader'sneeds

    Useintroductoryparagraph

    Usetransitionalphrasesbetweenparagraphs(e.g.,however)

    20

  • Organizeyourwriting

    Begineachparagraphwithatopicsentence

    Limiteachparagraphtoonetopic

    Summarizemessagewithconcludingsentenceorparagraph

    21

  • Organizeyourwriting

    Breakuplengthydocumentsbyusing

    shortheadingsandsubheadings

    short,numberedlists

    bullets

    tableofcontents

    22

  • OrganizeyourwritingBreakuplengthydocumentsbyusing

    Cutins

    Tables

    Mathematicalformulas

    Diagrams

    23

  • Organizeyourwriting

    Typeofheading

    Whatitis Howitlooks

    QuestionHeading

    Aheadingintheformofaquestion WhyDoWeUse

    Headings?

    StatementHeading

    Aheadingthatusesanounandaverb

    HeadingsHelpGuideaReader

    TopicHeading

    Aheadingthatisawordorshortphrase Headings

    Three types of headings

  • OrganizeyourwritingOrganizematerialbyusingoneofthesemethods:

    Chronology

    Logic(causeandeffect)

    Problems/Solutions

    Actorsactions

    Witnessesobservations

    Issues25

  • Organizeyourwriting

    Stategeneralrulefirst,thenexceptions,conditions,andspecializedinformation

    Putcontextfirst,thendetails

    26

  • 3.Writethewayyoutalk!

    Writefortheaveragereader Usepronouns Usepresenttenseifpossible Usefamiliar,concretewords Usecontractionswhennatural

    27

  • 4.Usetransitionwords

    Type oftransition Description Examples

    Pointingwords Referdirectlytosomethingalreadymentioned

    This,that,these,those, the

    Echolinks Wordsorphrasesechoapreviouslymentionedidea

    This highlyunusualmaneuver

    Explicitconnectives Wordswhosechiefpurposeistosupplytransitions

    Further,also,therefore

  • UsetransitionwordsEXPLICIT CONNECTIVES

    When adding a point: also, and, in addition, besides

    When giving an example: for instance, for example, for one thing.

    When restating: in other words, that is, in short, put differently, again

    When introducing a cause: because, since, when.

    When introducing a result: so, as a result, thus, therefore

  • UsetransitionwordsEXPLICIT CONNECTIVES

    When contrasting: but, however, on the other hand, still, nevertheless

    When conceding or qualifying: granted, of course, to be sure, admittedly

    When pressing a point: in fact, indeed, of course, moreover.

    When explaining a sentence: that is, then, earlier, previously

    When summing up: to summarize, to sum up, to conclude, in short

    When sequencing ideas: First,Second,Third,Finally,

  • 5.Makeitshorter!Lease:[Thetenantshall]whenwhereandsooftenasoccasionrequireswellandsufficiently...repairrenewrebuildupholdsupportsustainmaintainpavepurgescourcleanseglazeemptyamendandkeepthepremisesandeverypartthereof...andallfloorswallscolumnsroofscanopiesliftsandescalators...shaftsstairwaysfencespavementsforecourtsdrainssewersductsfluesconduitswirescablesgutterssoilandotherpipestankscisternspumpsandotherwaterandsanitaryapparatusthereonwithallneedfulandnecessaryamendmentswhatsoever....

    Ravenseft PropertiesLtd.v.Davstone (Holdings)Ltd.,1AllEng.Rep.929(1979).

  • Makeitshorter!

    Thetenantmustrepairthepremises

  • Makeitshorter!OneofAustraliasleadingbanksusesastandardmortgagehasaclausewith763words;theclausecontains2commas,1semicolon,3setsofbrackets,butnootherpunctuation.

    ANewZealandbanksstandardguaranteeformfeaturesanentirelypunctuationlesssentencewith1,299words

    42U.S.C. 1396a(a)Medicarestatutehasasentencewith13,854words.

  • Makeitshorter!

    Plaintifffiled465pagecomplaintwith54claims

    Defendantfiledmotionformoredefinitestatement

    PresidioGroup,LLCv.GMACMortgage,LLCetal.,Civ.A.No.:0805298RBL,2008WL2595675at*1(W.D.Wash.July27,2008)

  • Makeitshorter!Courtruling

    Plaintiffhasagreatdealtosay,ButitseemsheskippedRule8(a),HisComplaintistoolong,Whichrendersitwrong,Pleaserewriteandrefiletoday.PresidioGroup,LLCv.GMACMortgage,LLCetal.,Civ.A.No.:0805298RBL,2008WL2595675at*1(W.D.Wash.July27,2008)

  • Makeitshorter!TheNinthCircuithasdeclared:

    Inordertogivefairconsiderationtothosewhocalluponusforjustice,wemustinsistthatpartiesnotclogthesystembypresentinguswithaslubbymassofwordsratherthanatruebrief.Enoughisenough."N/SCorp.v.LibertyMut.Ins.Co.,127F.3d1145,1146(9thCir.1997)

  • Makeitshorter!

    Short headings

    Short paragraphs

    Short sentences

    Short words

    Lincoln'sGettysburgAddressrequiredonly275words,and196ofthemhadonlyonesyllable.

  • 6. Eliminateunneededwords

    Empty words

    Jargon and Buzzwords

    Legalese

    Wordy idioms

    Double negatives

  • Eliminateunneededwords

    Empty words

    There areIt is As stated previously,I might addIt should be noted that

    Replace "There are kids swimming in the lake" with "Kids swim in the lake."

  • Eliminateunneededwords

    Empty words

    I would like to point out thatI would argue thatthe fact that In factthe course ofIt has been determined that

  • EliminateunneededwordsJargon and Buzzwords

    Reconceptualize Ideation

    Demassification Impactful

    Attitudinally Value-added

    Incentivize Paradigm shift

    Leverage Price point

  • Eliminateunneededwords

    Legalese

    A