What Forms the Basis of Legal Writing? The Medieval Trivium of Grammar, Logic, and Persuasive Writing

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The practice of law is a trade. What is the basis of law as a trade? It is based on flawless writing, logical reasoning, and persuasive argument.[1]  Not surprisingly, these three skills have evolved from the classical and medieval curriculum of grammar, logic, and rhetoric.[2] 

College is Not Helping.

College is not preparing pre-law students to think like lawyers.[3] 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.[4] Indeed, incoming law students should, but do not, know the basics of classical rhetoric: the different modes of persuasion and how to identify fallacies.[5] Many students do not possess these skills when they enter law school. Many students are not prepared for the rigorous analysis required.[6]  College students have deficits in critical reading, complex reasoning, and writing during the first two years of college. Rigorous college courses with extensive reading and writing requirements can result in true academic improvement.[7]  One commentator noted that students can harness educational technologies to develop some of the basic skills necessary for law school.[8] 

Law School is Not Helping As Much as It Should Either.

Law school is equally at fault. One experienced law professor found that students who think unclearly write unclearly.[9] Preeminent legal-writing expert, Bryan A. Garner, notes that it is no wonder that even lawyers can’t write: law schools provide students with “poorly-written, legalese opinions that read like over-the-top . . . parodies of stiffness and hyper-formality.”[10]  Garner faults the law school system where professors offer little if any feedback on students’ writing on their exams or writing assignments.[11] 

What Can Students Do to Develop These Critical Analytical Skills?

How can you develop logic and writing skills in which you may be deficient? And quickly. Consider taking a legal writing course. There are many good legal writing courses available online.

My course, Legal Writing Launch, is a great choice because you can take it at your own pace, and it includes the option for live instructor feedback. It is available at LegalWritingLaunch.com

Legal Writing Launch is a legal writing intensive course. In this online, self-paced course, students will learn to draft power-packed paragraphs™ using the legal reasoning structure taught in law school—Issue, Rule, Analysis, and Conclusion, commonly known as IRAC. Another commentator has discussed the value of the Core Grammar for Lawyers online platform to prepare students for their first year of law school.[12] Legal Writing Launch offers Core Grammar as part of its focus on ensuring that students know the fundamentals of grammar.

Those successful in law excel at:

  1. Strong essay writing
  2. Simplifying and communicating complex concepts
  3. Demonstrating excellent skills in grammar
  4. Understanding and developing legal issues
  5. Using the IRAC analytical structure (Issue, Rule, Analysis & Conclusion)
  6. Drafting strong paragraphs for exams, papers, legal memos, letters, and briefs.

Legal Writing Launch teaches these skills.

How Can You Invest in Yourself?

Billionaire investor Warren Buffet states, “[b]y far the best investment you can make is in yourself.”  [13]  Buffett added that  developing one’s communication skills—both in writing and in person—”can increase [one’s] value by at least fifty percent.” [14]

Click the button below to see if my course might assist you in writing with correct grammar, in a logical manner, and persuasively. (View the introductory video, and access the actual contents of the Course under any of the course levels—Basic Course, Assignment Editing Add-On, or Weekly Zoom Meeting [includes Assignment-Editing].)

Click here to learn more about Legal Writing Launch

[1] 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, 755-756. https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm? 755abstract_id=2142812#:~:text=Legal%20Education%27s%20Perfect%20Storm%3A%20Law%20Students%27%20Poor%20Writing,the%20Urgent%20Need%20to%20Reconfigure%20the%20First-Year%20Curriculum

[2] Legal Education’s Perfect Storm, supra, at p. 756.

[3] 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. https://scholarship.law.umassd.edu/fac_pubs/90/

[4] Legal Education’s Perfect Storm, supra, at pp. 735 & 755, n. 97.

[5] Legal Education’s Perfect Storm, supra, at p. 759.

[6] Kids Aren’t Alright, supra, at p. 175.

[7] Kids Aren’t Alright, supra, at p. 175.

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

[9] Legal Education’s Perfect Storm, supra, at pp. 735 & 742, n. 26.

[10]  Garnar, Why Lawyers Can’t Write, 1, 2.  https://www.abajournal.com/magazine/article/why_lawyers_cant_write/

[11] Garnar, Why Lawyers Can’t Write, 1, 2.  

[12] Kids Aren’t Alright, supra, at p. 175 and https://www.coregrammarforlawyers.com/.

[13]  Warren Buffet Says This 1 Investment Decision Will Be By Far the Best One You Ever Make, Inc.com (Jan. 2021).  https://www.inc.com/marcel-schwantes/warren-buffett-says-this-1-investment-decision-will-by-far-be-best-youll-ever-make.html#:~:text=In%20a%202019%20interview%20with,by%20at%20least%2050%20percent.%22

[14] Warren Buffet Says This 1 Investment Decision Will Be By Far the Best One You Ever Make, supra.  

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In this article, we will cover the following crucial aspects:
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Join me as we explore these key areas and learn how to elevate your legal writing to avoid the potentially damaging effects of poor legal documentation.

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This article covers:
Why Plain English Matters in Legal Writing
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Resources and Courses for Improving Legal Writing Skills
Common Pitfalls to Avoid in Legal Writing

Conclusion: The Importance of Clear and Accessible Legal Documents

For years, legal writing has been synonymous with complex language and intricate phrasing. However, the trend is shifting towards a more transparent and straightforward style. By mastering legal writing in plain English, you not only improve your document’s readability but also enhance communication and legal comprehension for all parties involved.

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Colloquial Phrases in Legal Writing: Understanding and Avoiding Informal Legal Language

In legal writing, clarity and precision are paramount. Yet, one of the common pitfalls many lawyers and law students face is the use of colloquial phrases and informal language. This blog delves into the essence of colloquial expressions in legal writing, their impact on legal documents, and why it’s crucial to avoid them. We’ll cover a variety of areas, including:
What Are Colloquial Phrases in Legal Writing?
The Impact of Colloquial Language on Legal Documents.
Common Examples of Informal Legal Language.
How to Avoid Colloquialisms in Legal Writing.
Benefits of Using Plain Language in Legal Documents.
Conclusion: Striking a Balance Between Clarity and Formality.
Colloquialisms can muddle legal documents, making them less precise and professional. Legal jargon, while sometimes difficult to understand, aims to provide specific and unequivocal meaning. But where do we draw the line between complicated legalese and overly casual language? This blog aims to provide guidance on understanding and avoiding informal legal phrases, offering practical legal writing tips to enhance your legal documents.

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