Legal Writing

Have you ever made a typo? Have you ever misspelled something in a written document? Have you ever made a factual error? Chances are, if you are white and you made a mistake, the person reading it didn’t notice. Or if they noticed, they made an excuse for you. Don’t worry white folks, minor clerical errors won’t detract from your overall appearance of intelligence and competence.

But if you’re black, prepare to feel like an idiot. A new study shows that when law firm partners read identical memos, the partners who believed the author was white were much more forgiving than the partners who thought the author was black.

Hang on, I need to email this study to David Lat, Bryan Garner, my mom, Matt Levine, and Partner Emeritus, from my fake, white-person, @post.harvard.edu account, so they take it seriously….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Proof That Typos Are Racist”

On Tuesday, the D.C. Circuit benchslapped a gaggle of lawyers for filing briefs with excessive acronyms. The court’s per curiam order directed the parties to “submit briefs that eliminate uncommon acronyms used in their previously filed final briefs.”

Alas, attempts to comply with this order have raised a new problem — a problem that some readers saw a mile away….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “A Benchslap Postscript: Mo’ Words, Mo’ Problems”

The D.C. Circuit to counsel: readable briefs or GTFO. From an order filed today:

Who are the parties and their counsel? Additional information and the full order, after the jump.

(Also note the UPDATES — in defense of the lawyers, and floating a theory about the judge behind the benchslap — added to the end of this post.)

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Benchslap Of The Day: LMAO At D.C. Cir.”

Homework is hard.

Are you out of work and unable to get even the document review companies to look your way? Did you graduate from a lower-ranked law school and want the opportunity to prove you could have played with the big kids at a T14 school? Or maybe you just always thought elite law schools should work more like football teams in the South. Well, you’re in luck, because a T14 1L has taken to Craigslist seeking an experienced attorney (or at least a 2L/3L) to go ahead and tackle his or her homework assignment.

Once again, Craigslist found a way to lower the bar on the outlook for the legal market.

Go ahead and keep reading if you want to know where to send in your résumé. We won’t judge…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Lowest Job A Lawyer Can Get Is Now ‘Law Student’”

The defendants’ appeal brief is a gaunt, pathetic document (there is no reply brief). Minus formal matter, it is only eight and a half pages long. Brevity is the soul of wit, and all that, but still: the first seven and a half pages are simply a recitation of the history of the Georgia lawsuit, the settlement negotiations, and the present suit, along with questionable and irrelevant facts; and the tiny argument section of the brief — 118 words, including citations — states merely, without detail or elaboration, that the defendants do not possess the settlement funds and therefore can’t restore them.

– Judge Richard Posner, in an opinion ripping apart a brief submitted by David Lashgari, a Georgia lawyer attempting to appeal a contempt citation. Posner called Lashgari’s behavior “outrageous,” and his appeal “frivolous,” and issued a show-cause order as to why Lashgari should not be sanctioned.

(Keep reading to see Judge Posner’s entertaining opinion.)

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Judge Posner Rips Litigant A New One, Calls His Brief ‘Pathetic’”

It’s so hard to judge yourself.

Deep in your soul you know that people who criticize you are idiots, and people who praise you are wise and sagacious.

How can you possibly tell if you’re any good at what you do?

I have the answer for you! I’ve created a litigators’ self-assessment test! Now you’ll know if you’re any good!

Here’s how it works: Take out the last brief you filed.

Do it. Now. You won’t learn anything if you don’t follow the rules.

Look at the first sentence of your brief. For about ten percent of the people reading this column, the first sentence of your brief says (and I quote) . . . .

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Are You A Crappy Litigator? A Self-Assessment Test!”

That’s the only conclusion you can reach after reading the court’s new guide to typography. The federal rules say remarkably little about typeface, and the Seventh Circuit was having none of that vagueness. But instead of making a simple, concrete rule to guarantee that lawyers submit something that won’t make the judges — or their clerks — bleed profusely from the eyes, they churned out seven pages of pedantically detailed instructions. They even explain the difference between 12-point and 14-point fonts using many more words than “the second one is bigger.” Apparently the Seventh Circuit cares more about encouraging clean typefaces than efficient writing.

If you’re practicing in the Seventh Circuit, you need to read this curmudgeonly tract — and if you’re not, you can just giggle….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Seventh Circuit Thinks Its Lawyers Are Really Stupid”

“Playing Lecture Bingo gets 20 minutes in the corner”

The actual practice of law is much more rigorous than law school. Law school is basically college with lucrative summer jobs and crippling debt. Drinking every day, last-minute cramming, and generally winging it on exams are not out of place. That said, continuing the college-honed approach to my class work in no way conflicted with my understanding of proper professional behavior. I could slap together a paper for “Law and Super Mario Bros.”[1] or whatever seminar I was in and immediately shift gears to drafting well-researched and meticulously prepared memos for partners for my summer gig.

So while ATL is on record as a proponent of encouraging law schools to offer more concrete professional training, it’s not necessary to make class run like a day in the office of the worst partner or in the courtroom of a judicial diva.

That’s why, even though justified as an effort to train students to succeed in the persnickety world of trial practice, we really don’t need this professor’s three-and-a-half pages of single-spaced rules drenched in condescension….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “A Law Professor’s Detailed, Ridiculous, Condescending ‘Local Rules’ For Class”

Keith Lee

Everyone is familiar with the saying that you only get one chance to make a first impression. We size people up at a glance. People like to think that they take time to adequately weigh decisions, but in reality we often rely on “thin-slicing,” as popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in Blink (affiliate link):

“Thin-slicing refers to the ability of our unconscious mind to find patterns in situations and behavior based on very narrow slices of experience. The unconscious works by sifting through the situation in front of you, parsing out irrelevant data and homing in on what really matters.”

What this means is that we are constantly making micro-decisions at a subconscious level about the world around us all the time. Now, that doesn’t mean we are always making good decisions or judgments, but we are making them. Which is why lawyers need to care about how they appear — in person and in print.

And from a filed Answer in a lawsuit that a reader sent me, it’s a lesson that one lawyer needs to learn….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Appearances Matter (So Don’t File Something This Hideous With The Court)”

* President Obama won’t “just sit idly by” as his D.C. Circuit nominees are picked off one by one by Senate Republicans. No, instead he’s going to have his White House Counsel give interviews for him. [National Law Journal]

* Today is the 150th anniversary President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. If you’d like, you can watch a live stream of an event celebrating the occasion here at 12 p.m. EST today. [Constitution Accountability Center]

* If you want to learn how to write like the U.S. Solicitor General, you can get the “Bluebook for Supreme practitioners” right here (affiliate link) to see exactly how it’s done. [Supreme Court Brief / National Law Journal (sub. req.).]

* The Second Circuit slapped down a few requests yesterday, the most notable of which being Argentina’s bid for a full rehearing and Raj Rajaratnam’s plea for a review of his conviction. [Bloomberg; Bloomberg]

* You don’t know what you got till it’s gone: Weil Gotshal is welcoming back a former finance partner after a seven-year stint at Norton Rose Fulbright to fill out its emptied Dallas office. [Law 360 (sub. req.)]

* Dewey know when the axe man commeth for those who refused to join the failed firm’s $70 million partner contribution plan? Right now. Will Marcoux is the first to face off against Alan Jacobs. [Am Law Daily]

* Despite all warnings, you want to go to law school so badly that you’re reapplying. Well, we probably can’t help you much, but here are some tips. [Law Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News & World Report]

Page 1 of 1112345...11