Sound reasoning and legal writing skills are key for paralegals (including legal assistants) to advance in their workplace and careers.
As a Deputy Attorney General, in a litigation practice and law professor, I have worked with and taught paralegals for over 30 years. The great ones do extremely well in their careers—obtaining supervisorial positions, assisting in significant motions and interesting trials, or moving onto law school.
How do paralegals advance career-wise?
In a particular firm, the better a paralegal can write, the more advanced projects the paralegal will have. The better the projects, the more responsibility the paralegal will enjoy. The more responsibility, the better the reviews. Ultimately, the considerable responsibility will result in higher pay. Many of the students I have taught in paralegal programs were able to prepare drafts of motions and detailed research memos in their jobs at law firms and governmental entities. And about a quarter, of whom I taught, enrolled in law school and became lawyers. What was the commonality between all of the paralegals who succeeded—strong reasoning and legal writing skills. Don’t just take my word for it. In an interview with Jim Humes, Presiding California Court of Appeal Justice for the First District, Division One, the Justice said, “. . . a paralegal who can write well is worth their weight in gold and they’re going to go a lot farther than the ones who don’t.” Similarly, Paul Samakow, forty-year practitioner and founder of The Legal Merry Go Round, a podcast designed for non-lawyers and law students, in an interview noted that paralegals who write well will succeed and ultimately make more money.
Many scholars have preached the need for legal practitioners to develop strong reasoning and writing skills to do well in a law practice. One experienced law professor found that students who think unclearly write unclearly. College students have deficits in critical reading, complex reasoning, and writing. Rigorous college courses with extensive reading and writing requirements can result in true academic improvement. Logic is necessary to excel in the law, but many students of the law have not learned logic in college. No one has taught college students how to create and construct legal arguments. After all, practicing law is a trade. What is the trade based upon? It is based upon: flawless writing, logical reasoning, and persuasive argument. If you do not possess this foundation, you can still develop it.
Which legal writing skills should a paralegal develop?
To succeed and climb the career ladder in a law practice, a paralegal should obtain logical reasoning as well as effective and persuasive writing skills. Paralegals should also learn to draft the following documents:
- Business emails
- Miscellaneous pleadings, like complaints and settlement documents
- Witness interview questions
- Document summaries
Strong Business Emails for the Law Office
Writing plays a key role in all of these documents. Here is an example of a method for writing strong business emails in a law practice. If your email will be short and addresses two to three points, draft a topic sentence introducing each issue, and then discuss each issue separately and clearly. And, if your email will be longer and addresses three or more subjects, consider drafting a brief introduction, and creating short paragraphs framed around each of the issues.
Here is a business email example that I, as a professor, wrote to my class, addressing three issues, all in our paragraph:
I write here about our chat room session tomorrow night concerning course evaluations, presentations, and edits to the motion to suppress. First, you will complete evaluations from 7:15 to 7:30. Check your mailboxes for receipt, and then, submit the completed evaluations, as indicated. Evaluations are important to the program and to the professors, so please do complete them. Second, we will next turn to the presentations on the Michael Jackson child molestation case and O.J. Simpson robbery case. Please note that you must submit at least one question or comment to a presenter on the topic. And third, please read the (edited) Opposition to Motion to Suppress Evidence. It is attached here, and in Course Resources. Please make at least one comment regarding the effectiveness of a particular change, noting how the change fulfilled a Conclusion, Rule, Analysis, and Conclusion (CRAC) requirement.
See you tomorrow night in the chat room,
(For the entire blog about business emails, please see the blog).
Legal Writing Online Courses
There are many good legal writing courses out there, particularly paralegal training online. Paralegals should consider taking my course, Legal Writing Launch. Legal Writing Launch is a good paralegal training course or paralegal training program.
Legal Writing Launch
After taking Legal Writing Launch, students will see immediate improvement in their basic and legal writing skills. For basic writing, Legal Writing Launch will provide a strong foundation in grammar and essay writing. Students will then develop their legal writing skills by writing legal correspondence, memoranda, and briefs in a professional manner. Improved student writing will have a powerful impact on the reader by virtue of the writing’s clarity, succinctness, and organization. The basic course itself consists of short videos, concise lecture notes, and select readings. Students will spot and develop issues, use IRAC/CRAC in strong paragraphs writing in plain English, and develop their grammatical skills. Add-ons are also available, including Assignment Editing and Weekly Zoom Mentoring (which includes Assignment Editing). In taking the basic course alone, paralegals should be able to improve their writing in legal writing samples. If students take the Add-ons, paralegals should develop confidence before starting a new job or a new position because they have solid legal writing skills. Also, by taking either the Assignment Editing or Weekly Zoom Mentoring Add-Ons, students can draft paralegal writing samples or writing samples for a job. Law firms, governmental entities, and non-profits should consider offering Legal Writing Launch as training for paralegals.
Billionaire investor Warren Buffet states, “[b]y far the best investment you can make is in yourself.” Buffett added that developing one’s communication skills—both in writing and in-person—”can increase [one’s] value by at least fifty percent.”
What a paralegal student has said:
“Because of the strong legal writing skills I had learned from Professor Meyers, right from the start, I was able to prepare first drafts of motions and detailed research memos at the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office.”
Stacy Buchanon, John F. Kennedy University, Paralegal Certificate 2010, Bachelor of Arts, Legal Studies, 2013
If you have any questions, feel free to email us.
 Flanagan, The Kids Aren’t Alright: Rethinking he Law Students Skills Deficit (Kids Aren’t Alright) (2015) Brigham Young Univ. Educ. And Law Journal 136.
 Viatar, Adams & Reese, Legal Education’s Perfect Storm: Law Students’ Poor Writing and Legal Analysis Skills Collide with Dismal
Employment Prospects, Creating the Urge to Reconfigure the First-Year Curriculum (Legal Education’s Perfect Storm) (2012) 61 Cath.
U. L Rev. 735, 755, n. 97.
 Legal Education’s Perfect Storm, supra, at pp. 735 & 755, n. 97.
 Legal Education’s Perfect Storm, supra, at pp. 755-756.
 Warren Buffet Says This 1 Investment Decision Will Be By Far the Best One You Ever Make, Inc.com (Jan. 2021).
 Warren Buffet Says This 1 Investment Decision Will Be By Far the Best One You Ever Make, supra.