Monday, May 16, 2016

Plain English for Lawyers author dies

Remember Plain English for Lawyers, which was quite likely the first book on legal writing you ever read? Well, its author Professor Richard Wydick (UC Davis) died last week. Details here.
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"As a sabbatical leave project in 1977-78, Wydick wrote an article on 'Plain English for Lawyers' for the California Law Review.  It became the journal's best-selling article in reprint form, and Wydick expanded it into a book published the next year by Carolina Academic Press.  The acclaimed work has been widely used as a textbook and frequently cited as a positive influence on writing in the legal profession."

Speaking of legal writing, Law 360 offers: How To Think Like A Judge And Be A Better Legal Writer and this article: Standing in the Judge’s Shoes: Exploring Techniques to Help Legal Writers More Fully Address the Needs of Their Audience by Sheeri Lee Keene, who suggests "three methods for better understanding how judges think and, consequently, how they might respond to a piece of writing. They include examining prior decisions and briefs that contributed to them, practicing oral argument while writing a brief, and deciding the case as if you are the judge."

Over at the NLJ, appellate judge Douglas Lavine offers: Scalia Provided Example of How Not to Practice Intelligent and influential, the late justice nevertheless diminished the profession with caustic rhetoric. He explains that Justice Scalia's "written decisions provide a case study of how not to act in the legal arena. His written decisions are lacking in humility and punctuated with mean-spirited, personal and sarcastic language." He concludes:

My advice to young lawyers seeking to make their way is this: You may admire Scalia's enormous intelligence, his entertaining writing style and his jurisprudence. You may think his advocacy of "originalism" was a major contribution to the development of the law. But if you want to be respected by your colleagues in the legal profession, including the judges before whom you appear, eschew the demeaning and denigrating rhetoric he so regularly employed. Resist the temptation to play to the crowd by employing cheap, easy putdowns of an adversary or an adversary's arguments. Let me suggest that seeking out the better angels of our nature — to use Lincoln's famous phrase — is a ­preferable way to go. Try to elevate the process when you write a brief or stride into a court to argue.