10 tips for better legal writing

The legal writing process is not “one size fits all” and “people need to find the one that fits them best, David Howard Spratt, professor of legal rhetoric at American University Washington College of Law, said in the recent “Landslide Webinar Series: Take Your Legal Writing from Good to Great—Drafting Tips from the Pros”. The webinar was sponsored by the ABA Section of Intellectual Property Law and ABACLE.

No matter your personal style, all writers want to be considered credible. To do so, “the grammar has to be there and the proofreading has to be there, because those are the things that make the impression with your reader,” Spratt emphasized.

Spratt and his fellow panelists shared these basic musts:

Planning: Think about who you’re writing the document for, by asking yourself these questions: “Who is my reader?” “What is my reader’s relationship to me?” and “Why am I writing this? Is it to inform, persuade or to accomplish some other end?”

Spratt recommended giving your reader just what he needs to know. “Sometimes we write and regurgitate everything we know about a topic 

  1. Check verb tense. A singular subject should have a singular verb and a plural subject should have a plural verb.
  2. Note word placement. “The verb should come after the subject and be as close to the subject as possible,” Spratt said.
  3. Stay active. Writing in the active voice is clearer, more concise and easier for the reader to understand. Writing in the passive voice makes the reader “struggle to figure out what you’re saying,” he said.
  4. Placement matters. “Put the modifying words as close as you can to the words you’re modifying,” Spratt said. Julie Schrager, legal writing coach at Schiff Hardin LLP in Chicago, said she’s often
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10 Benefits That Writing Gives You

Jason Fried says in his book Rework that in Basecamp, company in which he is co-founder and CEO, one of the abilities that they are interested in when hiring people is their writing ability, no matter if they are sales people, programmers, or designers. The reason is simple: Clear writing is a sign of clear thinking. Good writers know how to communicate, they make things easy to understand and they know when to leave out the unnecessary.

Does this mean that you have to attend literature and grammar classes to be more effective when carrying out your tasks? No, you already have all the necessary knowledge. You learn how to write by writing. If you get used to express this way your ideas, feelings, goals, etc., you will achieve important benefits:

  1. You will communicate with clarity. Unlike talking, when you write you look for more sophisticated words and expressions to describe what you have in mind. This helps you build a structure that will allow you to express yourself better and communicate complex ideas in a much more effective way.
  2. You will eliminate stress. In the same way as in GTD you empty your mind—by capturing everything that comes to it—in order to eliminate the stress that causes having many things hitting your head, writing and developing your ideas produces an amplified effect since not only you take them out of your mind but also the whole process of rationalization that otherwise would abstractly stay in there.
  3. You will be more productive. Writing activates the neurons in your brain and gets it ready to overcome the rest of the tasks (you can use it as a kind of warm-up at the beginning of the day). In addition, writing down your tasks with the appropriate
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Developing Legal Writing Skills Masterclass

Suitable for solicitors, legal executives and all staff in the legal profession, this masterclass aims to demonstrate good formal writing skills by analysing participants’ personal writing style.

About the workshop

Through a series of exercises participants will develop techniques to ensure they deliver clear and formal written communications.

Solicitors and legal professionals need to master a variety of writing styles from instructing counsel to basic informational emails as well as advice on complex subjects. The techniques outlined in this workshop will examine these different writing styles. Some of the key areas will include:

  • clear English that presents information that is easy to understand but remains formal rather than casual,

  • concise language that uses the minimum amount of words,

  • identifying how jargon and technical language negatively influences written clarity, and

  • understanding how your audience will be impacted by your writing style


Edward Donelan is Adjunct Professor of Regulatory Governance, University College Dublin. He has worked with governments worldwide as a specialist in legislative drafting and developing regulatory governance and regulatory management. This work has included policy making, legislative drafting, public consultation, Regulatory Impact Assessment and managing stocks of legislation. He has been a speaker and trainer of legislative drafting at seminars and workshops in over 30 countries. His latest book is Policy – Making, Law Drafting and Managing the Stock of Legislation in the 21st Century (published by Palgrave Macmillan May 2022).

Make a booking

The workshop will take place on Wednesday 15 March 2023, from 9.30am – 4.30pm in-person at the Law Society of Ireland.

For assistance or further information contact us:


Irish Institute of Training & Development – Multiple Award Winners

Awarded for Excellence & Innovation in Training & Development

Skillnet funding

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Resilient Legal Writing

Purpose and Audience

Understand your purpose. What outcome are you trying to accomplish, and for whom? Structure, tone, and voice change based on the document you are drafting. Judges, another attorney, or a client all have expectations in your writing. Familiarize yourself with the courts or attorneys’ tone, style, pet peeves, etc. While a judge will almost always be a member of your audience, a judge will rarely be the only member.


Legal writing requires attention to detail while incorporating legal precedent. The first step in any research process is ensuring that you understand the issue. Understanding the question can be as difficult as answering it. Do not be afraid to ask questions if you need help. Do not commit the fatal error of excluding relevant cases because it does not support the conclusion you want to reach. Research should present an accurate assessment of the relevant law with an honest prediction of how the client’s facts are likely to come out under that law.


State your point directly and clearly using active voice. Avoid double negatives, and depending on your audience, do not use two spaces after the period unless required. Be consistent. If the document is longer than a few pages, use headings/subheadings as signposts. Just as the legal research mentioned above is a process, legal writing with clarity is also a process.


When submitting something to a partner, supervising attorney, or the court, you are making an impression. It is imperative to take proofreading seriously to produce high-quality work and to maintain professionalism. Those not proofreading their work should start immediately. It is also important to remember that under the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct and Professional Responsibility, Rule 1.1 states that a

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Inclusion in Legal Writing: A Practitioner’s Guide

As new lawyers, it is essential to hone your writing skills as early as possible. Although starting out in practice comes with a learning curve, focusing on writing can help perfect your skills and accelerate your proficiency in the craft. One area that you may not immediately consider is how to ensure inclusivity in your writing. The following five tips will help you be inclusive in your legal writing.

1. Be Person-Centric

Whether you are deciding how to refer to a person’s gender, race, ethnicity, ability, sexual orientation, or any other personal identity, remember always to put the person first. For example, rather than labeling a person as “an addict,” you could describe someone who has an addiction to something. Or you may specify a person with diabetes rather than saying someone is “a diabetic.”

2. Drop a Footnote

At times statutes or case law may use outdated language. Rather than perpetuate the use of outdated words, use a more appropriate word, and include a footnote explaining why you are using it. For example, “alienage” is a common term with legal meaning, but colloquially referring to people as “aliens” is inappropriate. Instead, choose another way to refer to the person, such as “asylum-seeker,” “refugee,” or refer to the person’s country of citizenship rather than emphasizing that a person is not a citizen of the United States.

3. Read and Ask

In the same way that lawyers read new law, they should also read about trends in legal writing. This could include trends in citation usage, or it could include the proper way to refer to a person who is non-binary in legal pleadings. If you are unsure about something, the best advice is always to ask because the profession is one of

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Legal Writing | Law | Baylor University

Writing is foundational to the practice of law.

Everything that takes place in a courtroom begins with writing. Every agreement, non-disclosure, and contract rests on writing. From litigation to the practice of transactional law, written advocacy skills are crucial.

Baylor Law is dedicated to ensuring that every Baylor Lawyer is a powerful written advocate who is ready to reliably produce thoughtful, accurate, and detailed written legal materials.  To accomplish this, our legal writing program was redesigned from the ground up – with one goal in mind – to create a unique, and rigorous, legal writing program that maximizes graduates’ readiness to perform.  

Writing classes are fully-integrated into the Baylor Law curriculum across all three years of legal training, all tracks of study, and all degree programs.  Legal writing and research assignments are designed collaboratively between writing faculty and the faculty of other courses.  The journey culminates in the third year in Baylor’s nationally recognized Practice Court, where students will draft the full gamut of litigation-based documents from beginning to end.  

There is no time during a student’s tenure at Baylor Law when they are not required to improve their legal writing by building on previously-learned skills. Our faculty and staff, who have unparalleled experience in both classroom teaching and legal practice, act as coaches who guide students in their legal writing education from the moment they enter Baylor Law through graduation and beyond. 

Even our Legal Writing Competition – the Ultimate Writer – is unique. Students who participate are not just competing for a cash prize – but also for a coveted job opportunity with a major firm.

Regarded as one of the best legal writing programs in the state of Texas, Baylor Law develops a sense of mastery in students that places them well

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Writing A Philosophy Paper – Department of Philosophy

Good writing is the product of proper training, much practice, and hard work. The following remarks, though they will not guarantee a top quality paper, should help you determine where best to direct your efforts. I offer first some general comments on philosophical writing, and then some specific “do”s and “don’t”s.

One of the first points to be clear about is that a philosophical essay is quite different from an essay in most other subjects. That is because it is neither a research paper nor an exercise in literary self-expression. It is not a report of what various scholars have had to say on a particular topic. It does not present the latest findings of tests or experiments. And it does not present your personal feelings or impressions. Instead, it is a reasoned defense of a thesis. What does that mean?

Above all, it means that there must be a specific point that you are trying to establish – something that you are trying to convince the reader to accept – together with grounds or justification for its acceptance.

Before you start to write your paper, you should be able to state exactly what it is that you are trying to show. This is harder than it sounds. It simply will not do to have a rough idea of what you want to establish. A rough idea is usually one that is not well worked out, not clearly expressed, and as a result, not likely to be understood. Whether you actually do it in your paper or not, you should be able to state in a single short sentence precisely what you want to prove. If you cannot formulate your thesis this way, odds are you are not clear enough about it.

The next task is to determine how

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