Class 1 legal writing basics
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Class 1 (Legal) Writing Basics. POLS 363 International Law P. Brian Fisher Spring 2011. Law School. "Is Law School a Losing Game?" NY Times, January 8, 2011.

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Class 1 (Legal) Writing Basics

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Class 1 legal writing basics

Class 1(Legal) Writing Basics

POLS 363

International Law

P. Brian Fisher

Spring 2011

Law school

Law School

  • "Is Law School a Losing Game?" NY Times, January 8, 2011

Class 1 legal writing basics

“This idea of exceptionalism — I don’t know if it’s a thing with millennials, or what,” she says, referring to the generation now in its 20s. “Even if you tell them the bottom has fallen out of the legal market, they’re all convinced that none of the bad stuff will happen to them. It’s a serious, life-altering decision, going to law school, and you’re dealing with a lot of naïve students who have never had jobs, never paid real bills.”

Graduates who have been far more vigilant about their finances than Mr. Wallerstein are in trouble. Today, countless J.D.’s are paying their bills with jobs that have nothing do with the law, and they are losing ground on their debt every day. Stories are legion of young lawyers enlisting in the Army or folding pants at Lululemon. Or baby-sitting, like Carly Rosenberg, of the Brooklyn Law School class of 2009.

Class 1 legal writing basics

This gets to what might be the ultimate ugly truth about law school: plenty of those who borrow, study and glad-hand their way into the gated community of Big Law are miserable soon after they move in. The billable-hour business model pins them to their desks and devours their free time…

“With fatherhood impending,” wrote the student, whose name was redacted, “I go to bed every night terrified of the thought of trying to provide for my child AND paying off my J.D., and resentful at the thought that I was convinced to go to law school by empty promises of a fulfilling and remunerative career.”

Weighing your options for law school

Weighing your options for Law School

  • 100 Blog Posts Evaluating Law School

Logical sequencing

Logical Sequencing

  • Example: The lower court did not err by affirming the Workforce Commission's denial of Spaulding's request for extended unemployment benefits, since those benefits were not available during the period for which he sought eligibility.

  • Solution: In March 2000, Gilbert Spaulding applied to the Workforce Commission for extended unemployment benefits. The commission denied the request because those benefits were not available for the period for which he sought eligibility. The trial court affirmed.

  • Fisher: In March 2000, the Workforce Commission denied Gilbert Spaulding’s request for extended unemployment benefits because they were not available at the time of his application. The trial court affirmed.

Omitting unnecessary words

Omitting Unnecessary Words

  • Example: Even assuming that the fog caused injury to Roelke, Amskills had no duty to prevent that injury because it was idiosyncratic and Amskills could not have been expected to foresee such injury.

  • Solution: Even assuming that the fog caused Roelke’s accident, Amskills had no duty to prevent such a freakish and unforeseeable injury.

  • Fisher: Presuming the fog induced Roelke’s accident, Amskills still did not have a duty to prevent it, because it was uncommon and (thus) unforeseeable.

Omitting words intermediate

Omitting Words--Intermediate

  • Example: The court appeared to premise much of its opinion upon the argument that consumers stand at a significant disadvantage in product-liability actions based on ordinary negligence principles. Consequently, strict product liability was intended to relieve the plaintiff of the burden of having to prove actual negligence.

  • Fisher:Because consumers are disadvantaged in proving negligence in product liability cases, the court recognized that the intent of strict product liability is to relieve the plaintiff’s burden of proving actual negligence (by the manufacturer).

Keys to good writing

Keys to Good Writing

** Whirlybird outline

GOAL: To write with economy of power and cogency


  • Frame your thoughts carefully

  • Preparation—Whirlybird (nonlinear outlining)

  • Seek cogency, clarity and conciseness

    • Logical Sequencing

    • Use headings and subsections for clarity

    • Simplify sentence structure (less than 20 words)

    • ** Omit unnecessary words

    • Lead with most important points

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