Legal Writing

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…

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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.)

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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) . . . .

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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….

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“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….

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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….

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* 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]

Danger, Biglaw Associates!

Contractors have been there before — an unnecessarily angry associate screaming at a room of temps muttering about when they were first-year associates. So what has got their panties in a bunch? Well, like most curmudgeons, it is change. The legal landscape is rapidly shifting, and one has to move with the tide or be swept away.

We frequently throw the term “Contract Attorney” around in this column, but there are a wide variety of tasks that are now considered contract work. As the tasks change, contractors encroach more and more on work traditionally thought of as an associate’s domain.

So what are the most typical contractor tasks, and how are they affecting the associates’ way of life?

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The online version of the bluebook has dramatically improved my life.

Relatedly, my life is pretty boring most days.

— A Facebook friend whose baseball team didn’t make the NLCS, commenting on the Online Bluebook.

* Stay tuned after the credits of Captain Phillips to see the part where the crew accuses him of negligence and sues him for millions. [Findlaw]

* Graphs showing the extent of growth in the ten states with the most and least growth in attorneys over the last ten years. The Texas legal market is growing dangerously fast. I sure hope it doesn’t lead to massive layoffs and the shuttering of offices. Weil have to wait and see. [Associate's Mind]

* In Nevada, Heather can now have two (legal) mommies. [ABA Journal]

* The push for the federal government to overhaul the public defender system is gaining momentum. Too bad there’s still no “federal government” to speak of. [NPR]

* Senior lawyers editing their juniors should take it easy with the red pen. A lot of the time, seniors are not editing to improve the product, but to make it sound like they wrote it, and this is the wrong approach. Senior attorneys have a narcissism problem? Never! [At Counsel Table]

* A new blog featuring law school deans discussing legal education seeks bloggers. Which deans will walk into the spotlights to accept the public abuse? [Law Professor Blogs Network]

* The next time you use Tinder to find a hot date, you just might be treated to an advertisement for a plaintiff’s firm. Image after the jump…

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