Legal Writing

Recently I talked to a fourth-year-associate friend of mine who’d been working at a new small firm for several months. When I asked him how it was going, he said “great” in a way that suggested anything but. So I pressed him for more. The work was fine, he insisted. The clients were fine. His associates were cool. Great, I said. So what was the problem?

Well, he finally let on, there was this partner.

OK, I said. What about this partner?

Well, he said, he’s making my life a living hell. In fact, my friend said, it was so bad, he was thinking of leaving the firm.

What made this partner so horrible?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Small Firms, Big Lawyers: Supervising Partners and Teaching Partners”

Happy Friday, and welcome to the latest edition of Above the Law’s Grammer Pole of the Weak, a column where we turn questions of English grammar and usage over to our readers for discussion and debate.

Last week, we discovered that 82% of our readers are willing to strangle, maim, and kill over the use of the serial comma. Take that, AP Stylebook heathens!

This week, we’re turning to a more contentious issue: the use of gender-neutral language in law practice and legal writing. Interestingly enough, experts disagree on the matter.

Bros, should you be kind to the ladies when you’re using indefinite pronouns?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Grammer Pole of the Weak: Gender-Neutral Language and You”

Good morning, and welcome to Above the Law’s latest Friday series: Grammer Pole of the Weak.

Last week, we discovered that 62.3% of readers think that it’s all right to use alright. As a grammar nazi, I can’t even describe how much it pained me to write the phrase “Grammer Pole of the Weak.”

Which reminds me: readers, the title of this weekly poll is supposed to be ironic. Are you serial with all of these emails correcting our spelling?

Speaking of being serial, let’s turn to the topic of this week’s discussion: the serial comma….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Grammer Pole of the Weak: Are You Serial with That Comma?”

Here at Above the Law, we’ve been discussing English grammar and usage forever — well, at least since 2006. We’ve discussed a plethora of grammatical and stylistic issues over the years, including how to form the possessive singular of nouns, proper use of the comma and the semicolon, and, most recently, whether to use one space or two spaces between sentences.

We’ve now decided to formalize the discussion. Every Friday we will raise an issue of grammar, spelling, or style, in our newest ATL feature: Grammer Pole of the Weak. We will kick off the discussion, then open up a reader poll and let you debate in the comments.

Today’s topic: “all right” versus “alright.” Let’s discuss….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Grammer Pole of the Weak: It’s All Right?”

My overlords here at ATL thought it would be fun to run a poll about whether there should be one space or two after a period. As if these things are decided by popularity, rather than by rules. This is strange, really, because just about all of you reading this are lawyers or studying to become lawyers. Better than anyone, lawyers know that we rely on laws and rules to decide what’s what, rather than an American Idol–style unscientific poll (where voters are self-selected and can vote multiple times).

As of this writing (late last night), the score was 65.9% saying “two spaces” to 34.1% saying “one space.” Now I’m no math geek (hence law school), but it looks like nearly two-thirds of you think a period takes two spaces after it.

Are you right, and does it really matter?

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NBA Commissioner David Stern

* The NBA is suing its players for failing to negotiate in good faith. Funny, I think the players are acting with the same “good faith” NBA owners do when they steal teams from loving fan bases or hold cities hostage until they build new arenas. [WSJ Law Blog]

* Having a drunk woman angrily spray breast milk on you is probably not as alluring as it sounds. [Sentencing Law & Policy]

* In other sentencing news, a guy got six weeks in jail for getting his ass kicked by Rupert Murdoch’s wife. [Gawker]

* This is funny because it’s kind of true. [Washington Fancy]

* To win, sometimes lawyers need to be quiet? Man, am I glad I got out of that racket. [Underdog]

* Lawyers should be happy to know that good writing requires doing it over and over and over again. [What About Clients?]

* The market apparently doesn’t like the debt ceiling deal. [New York 1]

A few months ago, I attended a hearing on a motion for a temporary restraining order.

The judge came out on the bench and berated one side’s lawyers: “You filed these papers at midnight last night. Your brief is more than 70 pages long and has a foot of exhibits attached to it. I arrived at court at 9 this morning, and you’re now arguing this at 9:30. Do you really think I had a chance to read this stuff?”

How does this happen? How can lawyers be so silly?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Inside Straight: If I’ve Got It, Then By God I’m Gonna Inflict It On You”

Some tasks are meant to be delegated; others are not.

Sometimes, whether the task is meant to be delegated depends on what the supervisor has in mind.

Let’s think about three examples…

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Ever see Fight Club? Yeah, me neither. The 1999 Brad Pitt movie was more of a cult film than a commercial success, although it did make back its costs. But the movie did have a line that became something of a meme, and was once recognized by Premiere magazine as the 27th greatest line in movie history (which seems dubious, but whatever):

The first rule of Fight Club is you do not talk about Fight Club.

If only lawyers had the same rule.

You see, being a lawyer is like being a member of an elite club. OK, maybe not as elite as we like to think; there are more than a million members in the US. But elite enough. And the problem is, too many of us are dying to show off to others that we’re members of law club. And one of the ways we do it is by trying to sound like a lawyer when we speak, and especially when we write. This is a problem because sounding like a lawyer is the same as sounding like a tool.

I’ve come up with 20 lawyerisms that do nothing to advance the message you’re trying to send, but instead show that you’re a member of law club. And that you sound like a tool.

How many of the 20 do you use?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Small Firms, Big Lawyers: 20 Ways to Write Like a Tool”

It’s inevitable, but at some point during your summer clerkship, you will have to write, and odds are, you will be writing a lot. Words are the currency of lawyers. Once you graduate from law school, you will be paid hundreds of dollars an hour to write brilliant briefs, ironclad contracts, and demand letters that would even make Dick Cheney cry. With that in mind, you will need to proof and analyze everything you write during your summer clerkship –- even if it is as an informal as a one-page memo or quick email.

This week’s Career Center Summer Associate Tips Series focused on helping you develop your writing skills, and is brought to you by Lateral Link’s Frank Kimball, an expert recruiter and former Biglaw hiring partner.

Read on for more information on how to manage your written work product as a summer associate….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Career Center: I’ll Take the Pen is Mightier for $500, Alex”

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