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October 29, 2007

Lawyers Writing Sanely and Well: Lori Herz

Ironically, few lawyers write well. Many of us aren't even aware of that. Good clients and the general public are justified in beginning to conclude that either we won't or can't write sanely and well.* At WAC? we've discussed that problem a lot, but not enough, at our section called Writing Well. When lawyers write, we meander, repeat, confuse, use too many words, are awash in jargon, are lazy, use the wrong words; in the end, we sound like self-important mental patients talking to ourselves. Useful and even brilliant legal thinking and insights get lost. Read lawyer letters to counsel or clients if you don't believe me. At best, most of them are full-of-it but entertaining. Or, for fun, just read our pleadings:

COMES NOW, the plaintiff, GiantMart Inc., by and through its attorneys, Adams, Bones & Carson, LLC, brings this cause of action against Upstart LTD, scumbags, for violations of the Lanham Act, and for other causes, which are set forth in their entirety below, and files with this Honorable Court the herein Complaint, the following of which is a statement of its averments and allegations: [with names changed to protect the lame, and one embellishment]

rather than

Plaintiff GiantMart Inc. states:

There are of course lots of nuances to this problem and they extend to American speech and writing generally. Our own King's English-Hemingway-Flaubert-worshipping Holden Oliver totally loses it and needs to be sedated when anyone uses either "PARTY" or "IMPACT" as a verb. He also abhors "COMES NOW","NEXT LEVEL", "MATRIX" and PARADIGM" and refuses to return Steven Covey's phone calls.

But let's start with lawyers. Last month, Lori Herz, a New York-based lawyer with fine lawyer credentials, business writer and no-b.s. writing coach, and Arnie Herz's other half at his Legal Sanity, launched Write For Clients, subtitled "How Powerful Writing Builds Business Success". Lori herself can really write; we've said before that only two or three writers in the blog community are as good as Lori. If you need help, talk to her. And see Kevin O'Keefe's interview with Lori last month.

*WAC? thinks that in-bred lawyer clubbiness, the resulting failure to represent clients aggressively and lawyers' lack of business sense are even bigger problems--but medieval lawyer writing is a symptom of the greater lawyer "insularity" problem. Generally, the vast majority of lawyers all over the world just don't get it. Our services for and service to even to-die-for clients are poor to mediocre. Sorry.

Posted by JD Hull at October 29, 2007 12:28 AM


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