Everyday I Write The BookOK, so if you decide to bide your time, save your money at your law gig before your jump off to better things, you might as well do a good job while you're there. I mean, yeah, you could probably care less for the partners you work with if you're at a typical BigLaw, but karma is a bitch. You don't want one of the associates helping you out by doing an utterly crap job for ya.
So for those wannabe legal eagles (geared toward litigation) out there, it's time for a couple of helpful hints from Marty Stark:
1. Think about your audience--the rules flow from this. Your audience is the partner who has maybe fifteen minutes in his day to digest your research. Your audience is the judge's law clerk who has to wade through twenty to fifty legal briefs a day, summarize those briefs for the judge, and make a recommendation. Your audience may actually be the judge (there are a few who do take the time to read briefs), who also has trials to manage and cases to push forward. Your audience has very limited time to read what you write. So what you write must be clear and concise.
2. Simple sentences are the best sentences. Subject-verb-object. Subject-verb-object. Wash, rinse, repeat. Maybe throw in one dependent clause in a paragraph for variety. Legal writing has two purposes: 1) education and 2) persuasion. You accomplish neither if the judge cannot understand you. I've seen plenty of lawyers fall into the trap of trying to sound legal by being long-winded and obtuse, but they lose the plot. Compare: 1) "Defendant's motion to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint, which contains a myriad of outrageous and confusing allegations that even, if true, would not constitute a basis for any cause of action, must be granted under the federal rules." 2) "Plaintiff fails to allege a single fact that would support a cause of action. Thus, the court should grant Defendant's Motion to Dismiss."
3. See an adverb? Cut it out. See an adjective? Cut that out too. Purple prose? Excise that fucker like a tumor from a testicle (see, by using extreme purple prose there, I'm showing you how purple prose can, feh, you get it). A lot of folk confuse the flash and bang of word modifiers with being "persuasive." Thus, they sprinkle their writing with phrases like, "The defendant egregiously blah blah blah," or "Plaintiff's argument is clearly blah blah blah." But, see, here's the rub. At the end of the day, a case is based upon the facts. And after reading the facts, if the judge thinks that the defendant accidently said the wrong thing (as opposed to "egregiously misrepresented" himself), or does not think that plaintiff's argument is clear because it gets from point A to point B via a path as convaluted as a Southwest Airlines flight from SFO to Newark with 4 layovers, well, you've just lost credibility with the judge. The most persuasive argument is one based on the facts. Thus, you must let the facts speak for themselves. If, after you've set out the facts and the arguments in simple sentences and you're not convinced of your position, either you need more facts, you need to rethink the logic of your arguments, or you need to settle the case.
4. When doing research, remember, secondary sources are just that--secondary. Go to the primary sources (case law and statutes) to be sure the secondary sources are accurate. Why? Because secondary sources can be wrong. I've had an associate hand me research for the proposition that "The law is X." All he/she looked at was the treatise. One of the cases that the treatise cited stated that "The law is not X." Cases trump treatise. Needless to say, it would have been bad had I cited that treatise in the motion I was drafting.
There's probably more, but I'm sleepy so pppphhhht.