My major (on my first trip through undergrad) was in English, with an emphasis on creative writing. When I asked my favorite writing professor for a recommendation to law school, she literally covered her face with her hands and started shaking her head. After determining that she had slid into despair and was not, as I feared, refusing to support my applications, I asked why she was so appalled. After all, I reminded her, I’d be writing all the time! But my professor believed that lawyers tend to lose the craft of writing and get mired in pointless Latin, highfalutin’ language, and eye-glazing prose. I realized, after I’d been in practice for just a short time, that she’s too often right. We get wrapped up in the law and lose the story.
Brian Clark of copyblogger has written a terrific post titled Ten Timeless Persuasive Writing Techniques. Some of you may be thinking that it’s odd to refer to a post from a blog devoted to “copywriting tips for online marketing success” to speak to legal writing, but consider a few of Clark’s suggestions and note their application to the law:
* Consistency. “Use this in your writing by getting the reader to agree with something up front that most people would have a hard time disagreeing with. Then rigorously make your case, with plenty of supporting evidence, all while relating your ultimate point back to the opening scenario that’s already been accepted.”
* Address objections. “If you present your case and someone is left thinking ‘yeah, but…’, well, you’ve lost. . . Addressing all the potential objections of at least the majority of your readers can be tough, but if you really know your subject the arguments against you should be fairly obvious.”
* Storytelling. “Stories allow people to persuade themselves, and that’s what it’s really all about. You might say that we never convince anyone of anything-we simply help others independently decide that we’re right. Do everything you can to tell better stories, and you’ll find that you are a terribly persuasive person.”
Every lawyer writes persuasively, and I encourage you to visit this post and to consider how copywriting techniques may help to pump up your writing. More broadly… From what other fields might you draw in developing your professional skills? It’s a great question to ponder.