A writing tip for contrarian judges
If you practice law, you are a professional writer.

Following forms is a sad way to write.

Lately an old high-school buddy has been posting our high-school yearbooks on line. I was the assistant editor of the 1974 yearbook (my junior year) and the editor of the 1975 yearbook. And I am cringing at these things. Not because the writing was high-schoolish (we were who we were). But because the overall format followed a form—the form handed down by prior editions of the yearbook. As a result, while a few of the photos are memorable, the overall product was and is forgettable.

If I could go back in time and tell my high-school self one thing to help him edit the yearbook, I would tell him to throw away the formula. To imagine what he would want to remember in 35 or 40 years. And to engineer a format to put that in the yearbook.

Yearbooks are not our task as legal writers. But for some of us (e.g. brief writers, opinion writers), our task is to write something memorable. The best way to do that is to discard the formulas. Don’t be afraid to start from scratch.

The formulas are old wineskins. Your ideas are new wine. Don’t pour your new wine into old wineskins. See Mark 2:22.

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