Writing Tips

Legal Writing

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What Were They Thinking?

Examples of Insulting Language to Avoid in a Brief

I know a lot of lawyers, and I’ve decided that, despite what the public thinks, we’re pretty nice people. We volunteer, we support the PTA, we coach, we give back to the community. BUT. Put us in a suit, hand us a briefcase, and say, “Go represent this guy,” and we change personalities. It’s like we just had a lobotomy, and out with the frontal lobe went common sense.

And we start writing stuff like this:

The Appellee brazenly claims . . . .

And like this:

Incredibly, the Appellee contends . . . .

And this:

It is lame, circular reasoning for the Appellee to argue . . . .

And:

With amazing chutzpah and inexcusable gall, the Appellee suggests . . . .

Here’s the confounding irony: The lawyer on the other side told me that the guy who wrote these words was the “nicest litigator” he had ever had a case against. Gracious, cooperative, flexible. He postured like the tough advocate only when he stood in front of the judge or wrote something for the judge to read. Later, when he asked the judge for attorney’s fees, he was surprised by the judge’s curt response:

Negative references to counsel on a personal level are meaningless and in poor taste, and serve no purpose in the disposition of this or any other case. TTP’s request for attorney’s fees is denied.

Or how about the lawyer who called a lower court’s decision “‘ludicrous,’ ‘inane,’ ‘risible,’ and ‘disingenuous.’” Did she really think the appellate judges would jump in with her to stomp all over one of the brethren?

 

And here’s my favorite. Save it for when you’re tired of practicing law, but you just can’t quite bring yourself to quit. Let the judge do it for you:

Yet it is apparently not the ignorant psychopaths who appeared as plaintiffs, but the willfully perverse legal aid attorney Mathews, reputed to be a licensed attorney in this state, who truly bears responsibility for the offending proceedings.

Think about your impression right now of the lawyers who wrote these words, and know that this is what they were thinking as they wrote them: I am a tough adversary, and I am clever.

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About Gary Kinder

Gary Kinder

WordRake founder Gary Kinder has taught over 1,000 writing programs for AMLAW 100 firms, Fortune 500 companies, and government agencies. He’s also a New York Times bestselling author. As a writing expert and coach, Gary was inspired to create WordRake when he noticed a pattern in writing errors that he thought he could address with technology.

In 2012, Gary and his team of engineers created WordRake editing software to help writers produce clear, concise, and effective prose. It saves time and gives confidence. Writing and editing has never been easier.

WordRake takes you beyond the merely grammatical to the truly great—the quality editor you’ve always wanted. See for yourself.

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How Does it Work?

WordRake is editing software designed by writing expert and New York Times bestselling author Gary Kinder. Like an editor or helpful colleague, WordRake ripples through your document checking for needless words and cumbersome phrases. Its complex algorithms find and improve weak lead-ins, confusing language, and high-level grammar and usage slips.

WordRake runs in Microsoft Word and Outlook, and its suggestions appear in the familiar track-changes style. If you’ve used track changes, you already know how to use WordRake. There’s nothing to learn and nothing to interpret. Editing for clarity and brevity has never been easier.