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Writing to Win
Cover of Writing to Win
Writing to Win
The Legal Writer
From a master teacher and writer, a fully revised and updated edition of the results-oriented approach to legal writing that is clear, that persuades—and that WINS.
More than almost any profession, the law has a deserved reputation for opaque, jargon-clogged writing. Yet forceful writing is one of the most potent weapons of legal advocacy. In this new edition of Writing to Win, Steven D. Stark, a former lecturer on law at Harvard Law School, who has inspired thousands of aspiring and practicing lawyers, applies the universal principles of powerful, vigorous prose to the job of making a legal case—and winning it.
Writing to Win focuses on the writing of lawyers, not judges, and includes dozens of examples of effective (and ineffective) real-life legal writing—as well as compelling models drawn from advertising, journalism, and fiction. It deals with the challenges lawyers face in writing, from organization to strengthening and editing prose; offers incisive ways of improving arguments; addresses litigation and technical writing in all its forms; and covers the writing attorneys must perform in their daily practice, from email memos to briefs and contracts. Each chapter opens with a succinct set of rules for easy reference.
With new sections on client communication and drafting affidavits, as well as updated material throughout, Writing to Win is the most practical and efficacious legal-writing manual available.
From a master teacher and writer, a fully revised and updated edition of the results-oriented approach to legal writing that is clear, that persuades—and that WINS.
More than almost any profession, the law has a deserved reputation for opaque, jargon-clogged writing. Yet forceful writing is one of the most potent weapons of legal advocacy. In this new edition of Writing to Win, Steven D. Stark, a former lecturer on law at Harvard Law School, who has inspired thousands of aspiring and practicing lawyers, applies the universal principles of powerful, vigorous prose to the job of making a legal case—and winning it.
Writing to Win focuses on the writing of lawyers, not judges, and includes dozens of examples of effective (and ineffective) real-life legal writing—as well as compelling models drawn from advertising, journalism, and fiction. It deals with the challenges lawyers face in writing, from organization to strengthening and editing prose; offers incisive ways of improving arguments; addresses litigation and technical writing in all its forms; and covers the writing attorneys must perform in their daily practice, from email memos to briefs and contracts. Each chapter opens with a succinct set of rules for easy reference.
With new sections on client communication and drafting affidavits, as well as updated material throughout, Writing to Win is the most practical and efficacious legal-writing manual available.
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  • Chapter 1

    Organizing Your Material

    I. The Overview: Getting Started by

    Leading with Your Conclusion

    II. Organizing Your Workplace Around Seven Rules

    1. Remember that most writing difficulties are organizational difficulties. 2. Writing is something that most people do best alone. 3. Most writers need a regular time to compose. 4. The person who does the research should do the writing. 5. Don't divide the drafting of a document among many writers. 6. Keep a notebook and learn from other lawyers. 7. Don't dictate anything important.

    I. The Overview: Getting Started by Leading with Your Conclusion

    For supposedly logical thinkers, lawyers often write surprisingly disorganized prose. Ask a lawyer what he or she intends to say, and you usually get a crisp, simple answer. Somehow, though, in the process of transferring that thought to writing, the clarity vanishes. Take this opening to a brief, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and cited in Tom Goldstein and Jethro Lieberman's The Lawyer's Guide to Writing Well:

    Appellee initially filed a motion to strike appendices to brief for appellant on July 22, 1983. Appellant filed a brief in response, which appellee replied to. Appellant has subsequently filed another brief on this motion, Appellant's Reply to Appellant's Brief in Response to Appellee's Motion to Strike Appendices to Brief for Appellant (appellant's most recent brief), to which the appellee herein responds.

    A large part of the problem here is the way lawyers organize and compose their material. Like everyone else, lawyers write in many ways. Some dictate off the top of their heads and then edit. Others ponder the matter for hours and draw up a lengthy outline. Still others discuss the issue with a colleague and try several lead sentences before finally hitting the screen or pad and dashing off a few paragraphs in a blaze of glory.

    If a method works for you and you can't conceive of doing things any other way, stick with your habit. Tradition has it that Ernest Hemingway used to sharpen close to twenty pencils and then go for a walk before writing. That said, however, one method of organization has tended to work well for legal writers in the past.

    First, you must have a clear idea of what you're going to say before you begin to write. Compare it to driving: If you're going to travel from New York to Washington and you get into the car without having figured out what route you're taking, you may still eventually arrive in Washington. The problem is that you may take your passengers to Albany or Providence before you finally get your bearings and head for Washington in the most direct fashion.

    To get your direction straight, outlining can help. Yet not just any outline will do. Rather, before you sit down to write anything, whether it's a two-page letter or a thirty-page brief, you should ask: If you had to condense your message in two or three sentences, what would those sentences be? If the judge or reader stopped you on the street and said, "I only have about a half a minute, so who are you, what do you want, and why?" what would you say? Having figured out those two or three sentences, you're ready to write and something more. Those first few sentences should be the first paragraph of any document. In legal writing, we always lead with our conclusions.

    Good lawyers do this all the time. Here's how one advocate appealing a criminal conviction began her brief (the names have been changed):

    The State's entire case against Max Hugo turned on Trooper Dora Clayhorn's testimony about her success in disguising herself as a college student, entering the enclosed porch of...

About the Author-
  • Steven D. Stark is a former cultural commentator for CNN, National Public Radio, and the Voice of America.. He has written frequently for the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Atlantic Monthly, and both the Boston Globe where he was an op-ed columnist and the Montreal Gazette where he was a world sports columnist. A former Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, he is a graduate of Harvard College and Yale Law School. His website is at www.starkwriting.com

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The Legal Writer
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