Today, thanks to the [non]billable hour, I found Presentation Zen, where I found an entry from last October titled Making Your Next Presentation Naked. Though its author, Garr Reynolds, was talking about standing up and giving an oral presentation before an audience, I think much of his advice can be applied to legal writing.1
I'm not talking about literal nakedness — I'm not suggesting that you sit before your computer in the altogether while writing your next brief. What I'm talking about is simple honesty and authenticity. Much legal writing is dull "because we are overly cautious. We are afraid. We want it all to be so safe and perfect, so we over think it and put up a great many barriers," and write in a style "devoid of emotion." Nakedness removes those barriers, letting the audience (or reader) see the real you.
Reynolds describes several qualities of naked presentation that, I think, are also the qualities of what I'll call naked briefwriter. Such as:
- The naked briefwriter "embrac[es] the ideas of simplicity, clarity, honesty, integrity, and passion. She presents with a certain freshness. The ideas may or may not be radical, earth shattering, or new. But there is a "newness" and freshness to her approach and to her content."
- "Don't try to impress. Instead try to, share, help, inspire, teach, inform, guide, persuade, motivate...."
- "Keep it simple. All of it. Simple goals, clear messages, and moderation in length."
- Be credible.
- Speak (write) like a human being.
A couple of years ago, some appellate lawyers in my firm were giving a presentation to Loyola's moot-court members. One of our number recommended that the students "embrace intellectual nudity." That recommendation took me by surprise. But after reading Reynolds's entry, I have a better idea what my comrade was talking about.
1 Reynolds's advice would also help anyone giving an oral argument before a panel of appellate judges.