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Shortcut to Persuasive Writing: Follow Hemingway

There is a shortcut to persuasive writing, and it's been around for 100 years.

It's like we got lost along the way, retreading the same old path of legal writing. Heretofore's and therefore's later, many lawyers still don't get it. Perhaps we are too proud to admit that we need editing.

We should take a page from Ernest Hemingway, one of the most influential writers of the past century. He was not a lawyer -- which may be one of the reasons he was a great writer -- but he was a master of concise and simple prose, which is the key.

The legal profession has a drinking problem. More than one in five attorneys is a problem drinker, according to a study by the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, and rates of alcoholism are much higher in attorneys than in the general public.

But attorneys aren't the only legal professionals with drinking problems, as recent news regarding a federal judge in Louisiana reminds us. U.S. District Judge Patricia Minaldi was removed from the bench and, recently disclosed documents show, ordered to treatment for alcoholism.

First Murder Trial? Consider the Facts

Stephanie Morales, a 32-year-old prosecutor handling her first murder trial, looked across the courtroom at her opponent -- the community's best known criminal defense attorney.

James Broccoletti , who had been practicing criminal law longer than his opponent had been alive, was defending his fourth client against murder charges in three months. All three of his other cases ended in acquittal or dismissal.

"There seems to be somewhat of a mismatch as far as the lawyer for the commonwealth and the lawyer for the defense," said former Virginia Beach Commonwealth's Attorney Harvey Bryant. "Experience is very important."

So how did Morales do in her first murder trial against the toughest opponent in town? Here are some things to remember:

The Challenge of Lawyers Seeking Accommodations for Disabilities

Working from a wheelchair, trial lawyer Carol Steinberg strained to hear the judge as she met in a sidebar with opposing counsel. She could not see the judge because of the elevated bench, and instead sat face-to-face with a wooden panel.

"As I stared at that wood in front of me, with the angry voice of my opponent and the obliging voice of the young judge above, I had one recurring thought: Maybe it's time to do something else," she recalled. "I felt I had no business trying a case in a wheelchair."

Steingberg recently chronicled her challenges as a disabled lawyer in an opinion piece for the New York Times. She has tried 50 cases, despite the obstacles from multiple sclerosis over the past 12 years. Like many disabled attorneys, it has been a battle of accommodation if not discrimination.

When it comes to housing and development, there is plenty of uncertainty right now. Will mortgage rates continue to rise? What will happen to affordable housing tax credits? What's in store now that Dr. Ben Carson could be taking his neurosurgery skills to the Department of Housing and Urban Development?

We don't have a crystal ball, but we do have one of the best ways to keep up with the latest housing and development news: Thomson Reuters' Housing and Development Reporter, a comprehensive newsletter published 24 times a year, covering the latest developments in housing and development.

Are Solo Lawyers Entrepreneurs?

There is a debate raging among lawyers about whether solo practitioners are entrepreneurs. But come on now, in the immortal words of Rodney King, "Can we all just get along?"

As Black History Month reminds us of the more divisive issues of our times, are we really debating the entrepreneurial nuances of law practice? With apologies to Allen Iverson, we're talking about practice! We're talking about practice! We're talking about practice!

Somewhere between the sublime and the ridiculous -- which is the internet -- legal minds are dissing each other about the difference between a lawyer who hangs out his shingle and a person who bakes cupcakes. Here, mercifully, is a summary:

Consider the traditional law firm service model officially disrupted. According to a new study, a sizable majority of companies are now using some sort of "alternative legal service provider," moving away from the classic model where a firm guides every aspect of a legal matter.

In today's legal market, "consumers of legal services find themselves beneficiaries of a new and growing number of nontraditional service providers that are changing the way legal work is getting done." And it's not just companies that are getting nontraditional legal services from a variety of providers. Firms, too, have begun integrating alternative legal services into their practices, the report finds, both as consumers and providers of the services.

When President Trump issued his executive order barring visitors, immigrants, and refugees from seven majority-Muslim countries, hundreds of lawyers rushed to major airports, where they set up camp and begin filing lawsuits and habeas petitions on behalf of those detained.

Maybe you were one of them. Maybe you want to be one of them. If so, here are a few resources to help you out.

Court OK's Class Action Over PACER Fees

Maybe sometime in e-history, a government worker thought the cost to access a court document electronically should be roughly the same as the cost to print a page.

At least for Public Access to Court Electronic Records: PACER charged 7 cents a page in 1998. The fee increased incrementally thereafter, and today it is 10 cents a page.

It's about the same you pay to copy a page at the courthouse copy machine, which is stocked with paper by the court. Except for one incongruence: PACER users pay for their own paper when they download and print documents.

Maybe this observation doesn't exactly explain the problem with PACER, but there is a real problem with its fee schedule. A federal judge has certified a class action against the federal government for allegedly overcharging users for access. It's the fourth case in a recent spate of claims against PACER fees.

3 Tips for Handling Juror Questions

In a way, handling juror questions is like handling judges' questions.

The question may give you cause for concern, especially if the answer will hurt your client's case. Or it may give you hope because the answer will lead to a favorable result.

In any case, juror questions are important indicators in a trial and should be welcome. Questions show that jurors are engaged and want to know more about the case. It is also important to think about how to handle them.