People who watch lawyer shows think that lawyers bluster in a courtroom all day long, but we know what it's really about: Writing. Lots of writing.
Throughout 2014, FindLaw's Strategist and Greedy Associates blogs published many notable pieces about legal writing, and how to do it better. Here are the 10 legal writing posts that you liked the most:
10. #DearFindLaw: Legal Writing Checklists; the 3-2-1 Study Method -- This post, geared toward law students, addresses the "3-2-1" method, which you can use to determine when you absolutely, positively have to start cramming for a final exam. The "checklists" part of the post, which is germane to everyone, is about using checklists to make sure you don't forget something when you're writing.
9. #DearFindLaw: Legal Writing Is a Freaking Nightmare -- Should you sweat the Bluebook? Not really. It's pretty opaque, but once you get the basics of citation, it all comes into focus. Plus, how can you become a better writer? (By reading better writing.)
8. 5 Tips for Writing Lawyerly Letters of Recommendation -- If you're tasked with writing a recommendation for a prospective law student or a current law student-slash-job seeker, we have some things you should keep in mind.
7. For Dictionary Day, 7 More Words Only Federal Judges Use -- Want to expand your vocabulary? Read this second part in our ongoing saga of strange words federal judges use. Justice Antonin Scalia and the First Circuit's Judge Bruce Selya are over-represented on this list. The explanations are quite pellucid.
6. Avoid Email Miscommunications, Monitor Your Tone -- You know what you want to say, but another person reading your email might not know. Is there a chance your genuine email could be read in a way that might make you sound snarky? Just give it another read-through to be sure.
5. Is Your Legal Writing Terrible? 3 Points to Ponder -- Do you routinely use awkward, overly wordy phrases when a simple verb would suffice? Do you assume your audience knows something, when you really should be explaining more? Fixing these common habits will go a long way toward turning you into a better writer.
4. The 'F U' Response Letter: 5 Tips for Writing One -- If you're really going to drop an F-bomb in a letter to an opposing party, or any of the other bombs in George Carlin's "Seven Dirty Words" routine, there's a way to do it correctly and effectively.
3. Holy Crap: Lawyer's Led Zeppelin Complaint Is a Work of Art -- A complaint claiming that Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page stole "Stairway to Heaven" from nascent rock band Spirit is the old hat; musicians accuse each other stealing all the time. But this complaint! It's a masterwork of font use, incorporating the Led Zeppelin font in just the right mocking way. Plus, it's expertly typeset and laid out.
2. 3 Typography, Layout Rules Every Lawyer Should Know -- People loved reading about layout this year. Hopefully 2015 will be the year of the large, roomy margins that give text room to breathe.
And your favorite legal writing post of 2014?
1. 5 Grammar Mistakes Lawyers Make -- We get it if you're not clear on whether "Internet" should be capitalized or whether you should say "pleaded" or "pled"; different style guides disagree. But the its/it's distinction? That one's a no brainer.
Here's to better legal writing in 2015!