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The root causes of bad legal writing

Why is most legal writing so bad? And what can be done about it? Wayne Schiess tackles these questions in Legal Writing Is Not What It Should Be. Some of the causes and proposed solutions are institutional. But one of Wayne’s proposed solutions is something each of us can, and should, do for ourselves:

Individual lawyers must take more responsibility for their own legal-writing skills and must constantly seek to improve. Lawyers should read a book on writing or legal writing once a year, open themselves up to honest critique, acquire and consult the best sources on writing, and attend a continuing-legal-education course on legal writing.

For Bridging the Gap participants and anyone else who’s interested

This afternoon, I’m presenting the appellate-practice hour of the Louisiana State Bar Association’s Bridging the Gap seminar for newly minted lawyers. For those participants and others who may be interested:

Participants may also be interested in these two articles by Judge Alex Kozinski of the Ninth Circuit:

  • In Praise of Moot Court — Not!, in which Judge Kozinski discusses the differences between law-school moot-court programs and real-world appellate practice.
  • The Wrong Stuff, in which Judge Kozinski explains how to lose an appeal that, for whatever reason, you must lose.

Finally, here are some sample pleadings and briefs. Treat them only as samples, not as models. Use them with caution, as the rules may have changed since these were written.