Good handwriting often seems like a lost art, but as we celebrate National Handwriting Day, it seems appropriate to remind law students and attorneys why handwriting is important.
But in our age of technology, do attorneys really need good handwriting?
Bad Handwriting and Dictation
Attorneys aren't in the highest echelons of handwriting glory, but we certainly aren't the worst. In a PR Newswire survey from over a decade ago, lawyers were ranked #4 for best handwriting but also #3 for worst. For reference, teachers were ranked as the #1 paragons of penmanship and doctors were the worst scribblers of the bunch.
So there are certainly some attorneys with great and not-so-great handwriting, but it seems like our scrawling isn't impacting the faith in our profession. Perhaps it's because of tools like digital dictation software, which can transcribe an MP3 into a text document up to three times faster than typing.
If these dictation tools are so accurate and reliable, it doesn't make as much sense to have a paralegal scratching his or her head interpreting an attorney's chicken-scratch handwriting. Plus, even without dictation software like Dragon, recording court proceedings or depositions can capture things which handwritten notes cannot.
Reasons to Beef Up Your Handwriting
Although most attorneys can offload their notes, official pleadings, and even client communication to digital alternatives, there are some places where handwriting is still king:
- Law school notes. Yes, there are still some nutty Luddite professors who will bar all devices with a power button from the classroom. If you have one of these provincial professors, it's time to get some legible handwriting.
- Your signature. E-signatures are a thing, but you'll definitely be called upon to sign in blue ink on at least a jillion documents in your career. And remember, your signature can say a lot about you.
- Court forms/orders. Courts with fairly frenetic calendars will often ask attorneys to fill out forms or court orders on-the-fly, which may call for you to write in your client's name, contact information, or even your own information. You don't want a TRO to be unenforceable because you failed to legibly handwrite your client (or the defendant's) name.
And if you're preparing to take the bar exam, add a few handwritten essays to your studying repertoire. Computers have a terrible sense of dramatic irony, and you should be prepared to handwrite for at least one section.
Good handwriting isn't a relic for the legal profession; it can still prove invaluable to many attorneys in a pinch.
Editor's Note, January 17, 2017: This article was first published in January, 2014. It has since been updated.
- Campaign for Cursive Promotes National Cursive Handwriting Contest (PR Newswire)
- 5 Tips for a Writing Flawless Demand Letter (FindLaw's Greedy Associates)
- 5 Grammar Mistakes Lawyers Make (FindLaw's Strategist)
- When Should Lawyers Put Down Their Smartphones and Pick Up a Pen? (FindLaw's Technologist)