New Lawyers Seeking to Practice with International Firms: Write Better!

Improve Your Writing

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Ask yourself these questions:

  • Might a U.S. firm have hired you for an international law practice, but your legal writing is not strong? 
  • Did your Master of Laws (LLM or LL.M) program prepare you for an actual U.S. practice (albeit in an international setting)?  
  • How can you excel now at your international law firm? 

It may be that you do not perform legal writing in an organized and persuasive way.  You can turn this around.  And now.

This blog addresses:

1. These are exciting times—U.S. law firms may hire new attorneys from abroad, or the firms are themselves based in other countries, seeking international lawyers to assist them in their U.S. practice. 

2. Your law school or LLM Program may not have prepared you for the actual practice of U.S. law, but you can still prepare on your own. 

3. Although you may have written one appellate brief, at best, in your law school or LL.M Program, you may not have written letters, memos, motions, briefs, and other legal documents that legal practitioners in the U.S. write every day. 

You can learn to write powerfully, in sound paragraphs, using Issue, Rule, Analysis and Conclusion (IRAC), and in plain English.  And, you can learn now.   

 I have taught or mentored hundreds of students who have completed law school and are new lawyers. Below are tips for success in a new practice.  Click here to review our legal writing course, Legal Writing Launch (LWL or Course), and see if our Course might assist you as a new lawyer in an international practice dealing with U.S. law.  One new attorney, who took LWL, called it her “savior.”   (View the introductory video, and access the actual contents of the Course under any of the Course levels—Basic Course, Assignment Editing, and Zoom Weekly Meeting [which includes Assignment Editing].) Students who had failed the Bar two and three times completed the Zoom Mentoring level, and then passed the California Bar!  (See more on the Course below.) Feel free to reach out to founder, Bev Meyers, at (415) 939-6460 to see if the Course is right for you.  

Below are tips for success to become excellent legal writers and now:      

U.S. law firms hire lawyers from abroad, or are themselves based in other countries, seeking international lawyers to assist the firms in their U.S. practices

Professor Carole Silver, a law professor, who has written frequently about international LL.M. students, has noted that we live in a world of high legal fees and cutting-edge legal problems, and “national” may not be enough. [1]  Legal issues, clients, regulations, and yes, money, often have a “cross border element,” making lawyers with exposure to another jurisdiction’s approach to lawyering attractive as a representative and agent. [2] You have passed a State’s Bar Exam, like the California Bar Exam or the New York Bar Exam, but that is not enough to begin a U.S. practice. You need to learn to write well and right away! Help is on the way; no, it is here; take a focused online legal writing course now!

Your Law school or LLM Practice did not prepare you for the actual practice of law, but you can still prepare on your own.   

As difficult as it is to hear, law school did not prepare you to practice U.S. law in an international setting.  In fact, even U.S. law schools do not teach new lawyers how to practice law. [3]  New law school graduates are simply not “practice-ready.” [4]  One commentator went so far as to say that law schools are flooding the market with incompetent lawyers. [5]  Preeminent legal commentator, Bryan A. Garner, simply states “lawyers don’t write well and have no clue that they don’t.” [6]  According to Garner, lawyers “may only recognize their previous unskillfulness once they gain these skills.”  He further notes that this is particularly true for newly-licensed lawyers. [7]  Why the poor writing?  According to Garner, the blame falls mostly on law schools.  Professors provide students with “poorly-written, legalese-riddled opinions that read like over-the-top . . . parodies of stiffness and hyperformality.” [8]  And, law professors offer little if any feedback on writing in exams or assignments. [9]   Junior lawyers are neophytes, Garner believes, and are ready for an apprenticeship with a good mentor (may they be fortunate enough to find one) and not for the practice of law. [10]    

Although some law schools may offer a clinic or two to prepare students for real-world practice, this training is not enough.  Many law schools do not actually require any training prior to a student’s seeking State Bar licensure. [11]  Students come to law school to be trained as lawyers, and not as academics. [12]  But, that is what law school does—trains students as academics.  One commentator criticized the academic community for its overemphasis on impractical scholarship and its unwillingness to teach students about the reality of law practice. [13]  Why is it that a first-year moot court student drafts an appellate brief?  Why does that student participate in a moot court on that brief?  How many new lawyers will write appellate briefs right away?  How many will snag the plum oral argument in the court of appeals on that brief?  Law school should focus upon the practical motions, memos, and letters that most new lawyers will write every day. 

At the small firm level, the skill set needed to practice takes years to develop and refine. [14]  This is particularly disheartening with the recognition that the majority of lawyers in private practice are in solo practices or small firms. [15]  The bottom line is: there is a need for competent new lawyers who can enter practice, thinking and writing critically; yet, there is a noted lack of these skills in modern law-school graduates. [16]  Unfortunately, new associates often find themselves ill-prepared for the rigorous practice and demands at their law firms.[17]   

There have been calls to “ditch” the entire third year of law school, and make it more like a medical school with rotations through different areas of practice. [18]  One commentator suggests that there should be higher degrees of clinical and practical concentrations as one moves closer to practice. [19]  Another author believes that law schools should integrate practical and doctrinal training throughout the curriculum. [20]  Specifically, the last commentator states that professors should elevate skills training to a position of greater parity with doctrinal classes—and frankly, these changes are long past due. [21]

Transnational lawyers are at a further disadvantage: though accredited U.S. law schools admit international students, they do so without  “[any] real assessment of the students’ needs and the best way to meet those needs.” [22]  English as a Foreign Language (EFL) students (those who study English as a second language, raised outside of the U.S.) do not have the English language resources that are available to students in the U.S. (or even from other English-speaking countries). [23]  For students for whom English is not their first language, this technical difficulty of being “international” extends to the classroom. [24]  These students are disadvantaged because they will be reading and writing about a common law system in English, which is a second language to them. [25]  Both students entering the traditional law school (from within the U.S.) and those entering the LL.M. programs from other countries may be lacking the deductive and analytical processes necessary to succeed in law. [26]  

Although you may have written an appellate brief, you have not written letters, memos, motions, briefs, and other legal documents for the everyday practice in the U.S.  You can learn to write powerfully, in sound paragraphs, using IRAC or CRAC, and in plain English.  And, you can learn now.      

Become a clear thinker and clear writer, and learn the writing skills of the trade.  “The dependence of good writing on good thinking cannot be overemphasized.” [27]  Stated slightly differently, students who write unclearly think unclearly. [28]  Law is essentially a trade and is based upon flawless writing, logical reasoning, and persuasive argumentation. [29]  Not coincidentally, these three skills make up the trivium, the classical and medieval curriculum of grammar, logic, and rhetoric, which formed the basis of legal education for centuries. [30]

In fact, international students struggle with differences in the formal structure of written legal analysis and arguments U.S. legal writing, which is based upon a reader-centered writing culture. [31]  In other words, legal writing is “reader-centered”—the brief writing seeks to educate and persuade the court. [32]  The legal writer communicates all steps of the analytical process to educate the reader. [33]

How can lawyers, who are writing poorly, develop logic and writing skills in which they may be deficient?  And quickly?  Consider taking one of the legal writing courses for attorneys.  There are many good legal writing courses available online.  Billionaire investor Warren Buffet states, “[b]y far the best investment you can make is in yourself.” [33]  Buffett added that  developing one’s communication skills—both in writing and in-person—”can increase [one’s] value by at least fifty percent.” [34] 

Our course, LWL, is a great choice because the Course includes the option for live instructor feedback, is self-paced, and is available on-line with easy-to-use educational technology.  One commentator noted that students should harness educational technologies to develop some of the basic skills necessary for law school. [35]  LWL is an intensive legal writing course where students will learn to draft strong paragraphs using the legal reasoning structure taught in law school—IRAC.  Another commentator has discussed the value of the Core Grammar for Lawyers‘ on-line platform to prepare students for their first year of law school. [36]  LWL offers Core Grammar as part of its focus in ensuring that lawyers struggling with legal writing know the fundamentals of grammar. LWL’s use of Core Grammar is especially helpful for new lawyers in international practice.    

Equally important, LWL provides students with the power-packed paragraph™ [37] structure—a construction central to the examination of an issue, using IRAC or CRAC (Conclusion, Rule, Analysis, and Conclusion).  For students who have limited time, they can simply watch the videos and review the sample pleadings (documents that lawyers file with the court in litigation).  For those students with more time to invest in themselves, they can undertake assignments that the author of this blog—an experienced lawyer and law professor—will personally edit, providing individualized feedback. 

As mentioned above, new attorneys should take a legal writing course before practicing with a U.S. firm in an international law practice.

[1]  Carole Silver, States Side Story: Career Paths of International LL.M. Students, or “I Like to Be in America” [States Side Story], Articles by Maurer Faculty 2383, 2387 (2012), https://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/facpub/783.

[2]   Id.

[3]  Dolan, Opportunity Lost: How Law School Disappoints Law Students, the Public, and the Legal Profession (Opportunity Lost) (2007) From the Selected Works of James M. Dolin, 2, https://works.bepress.com/jason_dolin/1/

[4] Flanagan, The Kids Aren’t Alright: Rethinking the Law Students Skills Deficit (Kids Aren’t Alright) (2015) Brigham Young Univ. Educ. And Law Journal 136, 181. https://scholarship.law.umassd.edu/fac_pubs/90/

[5]  Opportunity Lostsupra, at p. 1.

[6] Garner, Why Lawyers Can’t Write (Why Lawyers Can’t Write) 1, 1.  https://www.abajournal.com/magazine/article/why_lawyers_cant_write

[7] Why Lawyers Can’t Writesupra, p. 2.

[8] Why Lawyers Can’t Writesupra, p. 2.

[9] Why Lawyers Can’t Writesupra, p. 2.

[10] Why Lawyers Can’t Writesupra, p. 3.

[11] Opportunity Lostsupra, p. 9.

[12] Opportunity Lostsupra, p. 9.

[13] Uphoff, Clark, & Monahan, Preparing the New Law Graduate to Practice Law: A View from the Trenches (Preparing the New Law Graduate) (1997) University of Missouri School of Law Scholarship Repository 380, 387. https://scholarship.law.missouri.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1383&context=facpubs

[14] Opportunity Lostsupra, p. 13.

[15] Preparing the New Law Graduatesupra, p. 409. 

[16] 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, 742, n. 26. https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2142812#:~:text=Legal%20Education%27s%20Perfect%20Storm%3A%20Law%20Students%27%20Poor%20Writing,the%20Urgent%20Need%20to%20Reconfigure%20the%20First-Year%20Curriculum

[17] Legal Education’s Perfect Stormsupra, p. 4.

[18] Opportunity Lostsupra, p. 17. 

[19] Opportunity Lostsupra, p. 18. 

[20] Opportunity Lostsupra, p. 18.

[21] Opportunity Lostsupra, p. 18.

[22] Spanbauer, Lost in Translation, 399-400 & note 10. 

[23] Id., 398-400 & note 9, citing Sourcebook on Legal Writing Programs 203 (2 ed. Section of Legal Educ. & Admission to the bar 2006).

[24] Ballakrishnen & Silver, A New Minority, 28.

[25] Spanbauer, Lost in Translation, 402 & note 23, citing Ramsfield, Jill J., Is “Logic” Culturally Based? A Contrastive International Approach to the U.S. Law Classroom, 47 J. Legal Educ. 157, 186 (1997).

[26] Spanbauer, Lost in Translation, 402 & note 24, citing Lisa, Writing in the Legal Academy: A Dangerous Supplement? 40 Arix. O. Rev. 105, 114 (1998). 

[27] Legal Education’s Perfect Stormsupra, p. 741. 

[28] Legal Education’s Perfect Stormsupra, p. 742, n. 26. 

[29] Legal Education’s Perfect Stormsupra, pp. 755-756. 

[30] Legal Education’s Perfect Stormsupra, pp. 755-756.

[31] Id. at 400, & note 14, citing, Crist, Maria Perez, The AE-Brief: Legal Writing for an Online World [The AE-Brief], 33 N.M.L. Rev. 49, 67-68 (2003) & Ramsfield, Is Logic’ Culturally Based?, 163.

[32] Id. at 400, & note 14, citing, Crist, The AE-Brief, 67-68.

[33] Id. at 400, & note 14, citing, Ramsfield, Is Logic’ Culturally Based?, 163.

[34]  Warren Buffet Says This 1 Investment Decision Will Be By Far the Best One You Ever Make, Inc.com (Jan. 2021).  

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[35]  Kids Aren’t Alright, supra, at p. 182. [36] Kids Aren’t Alright, supra, at p. 182.

[36] Kids Aren’t Alright, supra, at p. 182 and https://www.coregrammarforlawyers.com/

[37]The power-packed paragraph is a trademark of Legal Writing Launch, LLC. 



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