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“It is possible to fail in many ways....” —Aristotle

When he’s not presiding at the New York City Civil Court or teaching at Columbia Law School, Judge Gerald Lebovits somehow finds time to write. And one of his favorite topics is legal writing.

A little known fact: about 50% of the litigants who appear before Judge Lebovits lose. Having seen so many losers, he’s learned a thing or two about how to write a losing brief. So in the tradition of Judge Alex Kozinski’s The Wrong Stuff, Judge Lebovits presents his own tips for those who strive for the kind of perfection achieved by the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Rich Little’s version of Richard Nixon said after winning the 1968 presidential election, “Well, you can’t lose them all.” But if you’re perverse enough, you can try.


One way to fail: misspell Aristotle’s name, as I did when I first posted this.

The Bluebook (19th ed.): Something I don’t need to practice law

At my work desk are two citation guides within arm’s reach: the 17th edition of the Bluebook and the third edition of the ALWD Citation Manual. I consult ALWD occasionally. I can’t remember the last time I consulted the Bluebook.

Recently the good folks at the HeinOnLine Blog announced the upcoming release of the Bluebook’s 19th edition, urging readers to pre-order their copies. I can understand why they’re excited: law reviews are their business. Me, I practice law for a living. There are many resources I need to do what I do. Not among them is the latest edition of the Bluebook.

As a practicing lawyer, here’s what I need to know how to cite, in descending order of importance: statutes, cases, constitutions, treatises, law-review articles, and web pages. Everything I need to know to cite those sources should fit on the front and back of one page. And except for web pages, citation of every one of those sources was covered in the Bluebook I used in law school in the 1980s.

If someone can show me that the Bluebook’s 19th edition will help me cite stuff that (a) I might actually cite in real-world legal practice, and (b) isn’t covered by a citation guide I already own, I might consider buying it. Otherwise, I’ll pass.

Terrific legal-writing columns from the Michigan Bar Journal

For years, readers of the Michigan Bar Journal have been treated to a terrific feature: a regular column on plain language, with each installment written by a heavy hitter (e.g. Bryan Garner, Joe Kimble, Ken Oettle). Thanks to an e-mail from Joe, I’ve just learned that all those columns are collected on this web page. I’m blogrolling it immediately.