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Writing – good writing, that is – is an accumulated art. At conception, we are not automatically infused with a gene that defines the parameters of our success to elaborate thoughts in an efficient and effective method, and systematically pushes us to Pulitzer Prize-winning status. Heaven forbid! We gotta work at it . . . each and every day. Many years ago, while suffering through the first session of a newspaper writing course for high school juniors, the instructor brought forward his thesis for good writing. The fact that he was a senior editor (and highly-respected at that) for a New York City daily gave us enough reason to sit up and take notice. “I’m going to teach you,” he said, “how to place one word after another and have it make sense. You also will learn to answer the questions of who, what, when, where, why and how within the first three paragraphs you write. “After that, where you go is all up to your ability and creativity.” All of us in the classroom shuddered at the thought. ” What have we gotten ourselves into,” I asked myself silently, feeling somewhat in a twilight zone. This writer still has anxiety each time an assignment looms on the horizon, especially a legal writing assignment. What are we attempting to say, do we answer all the questions that are (or may be) posed, was the research retrieval performed in such a way as to lay down straight track from point A to point B, to point C, will the reader understand what has been written, and has it been written in a straight and simple way. Paralegals, by the very nature of their responsibilities, are presented with numerous writing assignments: recap of attorney-client meetings, interrogatories ask and answered, deposition summaries, salient review of discovery methods and materials that pop up every day in the normal course of fact-finding, memorandums to the file, memorandums of law, legal documents of every breadth and width. And, they need to be square to the task. Traveling along the road of my (still very young) career as a paralegal, I grabbed at any tool that would help me to be a better legal writer: articles about legal writing, court opinions (selectively, not all), appellate briefs, any type of persuasive argument that an attorney reduces to paper and ink, tutorials and texts on the art of legal writing . . . and welcomed the chestnuts pulled from such documents, storing them for future use. There are very good texts, and too numerous to mention, in today’s marketplace that provide a comprehensive look at legal writing. Well defined, superbly crafted. At my home workstation, I have immediate access to three such titles that would be easily classified in the first tier of such offerings. The unqualified recommendation here is to acquire and read all three, if you have not already done so. All are available in soft cover, and are, therefore, reasonably priced. Bryan A. Garner, a professor of law at Southern Methodist University, is the author of Legal Writing in Plain English (University of Chicago Press, 2001). Garner is also the editor-in-chief of Black’s Law Dictionary, a notable distinction. One Dallas, Texas, publication referred to his style as something that “cuts through the muck of legal prose.” Garner espouses a clear and straight line from facts and thoughts to a finished product, whether it is a basic letter to a client or a detailed memorandum of law. He masterfully constructs a comprehensive tutorial on legal writing, reinforcing his basic premise that good writing does not come easy. “Most people don’t write so well – even many college graduates to think they do,” he says, challenging readers to improve and hone the skills of written communication by working on it every day. Garner debunks the traditional jargon of inferior prose that floods legal writing today. In a prudent stream, he addresses thought framing, sentence phrasing, and word choice as the essential principles for all legal writing. “If you can . . . really write, people will assume certain other things about you: The most important is that you’re a clear thinker.” A revolutionary thought? No. Just a revalidation of the core values that take successful writers forward. Garner spends an equal amount of time and space to analytical and persuasive writing, legal drafting, document design and structuring a methodology for self-improvement. And with the text are loads of exercises, along with samples of the good, the bad, and the ugly of legal writing. Now, if you want that same philosophy, but in a folksy, down home kind of presentation, full of meaningful anecdotes, then Terri LeClercq’s Expert Legal Writing (University of Texas Press, 1995) is a keeper. LeClercq is a senior lecturer in Law at the University of Texas at Austin School of Law, and contributed a legal writing column to the Texas Bar Journal for some 10 years. She is a most sought after seminar facilitator throughout the Unite States, drawing a line in the sand and daring you to cross it. Whatever approach the writer takes to become a better writer, LeClercq proposes that “a decision to concentrate on the writing of a document instead of only on the content of a document requires an active decision to take the time to improve . . . if you want to improve your style, articulate a specific goal and decide how to reach it.” At the very least, you will be entertained by her ability to cut to the quick and in language that you and I understand and enjoy. Some of the section’s titles include “Writing’s a Touchy Subject,” “Left-Handed Sentences,” “Marshmallow Constructions,” “Beware of Ambiguous Modifiers” and “That’s Not What I Meant.” Eugene Volokh, a professor of law at UCLA since 1994, teaches constitutional law, and is a nationally recognized expert in the First Amendment. He has written over 45 law review articles, and more than 75 op-ed pieces on constitutional law, and cyberspace law, to name a few topics. Those are pretty good reasons why Academic Legal Writing (Foundation Press, 2003) is so critically acclaimed. Aimed at law school students (2Ls and 3Ls), it is also an engaging read for paralegals and a must-have for the workstation. In entertaining style, Volokh offers learning aids in the construction of legal writing, and amply revisits the basic rules of writing that we seem to break too often – using fewer words, saying it once, avoiding word choice errors and the obvious clich�s. In all legal writing, there is an overriding need to construct a balanced, and efficient, document. These epistles from professors Garner, LeClercq, and Volokh can place the paralegal on the correct writing track and keep them from straying. For a comprehensive list of legal writing resources, check out The Edward Bennett Williams Law Library of Georgetown University at: http://www.ll.georgetown.edu/lib/guides/legal_writing.html. JOHN F. GEIS is a freelance litigation paralegal in Philadelphia, and a member of the Philadelphia Association of Paralegals and its Public Relations and Marketing Committee. He manages the Legal Links page of PAP’s Web site (www.philaparalegals.com). He is collaborating with attorney William Statsky on a definitive resource text for the paralegal in Pennsylvania.

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