by Nirvi Shah
Law school is hard. You are told this before you begin, but have no idea what you signed up for until you are in the thick of it—like right now. Due to the sheer anxiety and stress from preparing for classes and outlining for exams, it can be difficult to appreciate the art of legal writing and citation. Learning how to “think like a lawyer” is very important, but this skill will not be effective if you do not learn how to write like a lawyer.
No matter where your legal career takes you, you will write memorandums, briefs, and emails to colleagues and clients. You will also consistently cite your text to confirm that what you say is based on law and merited sources. And after practicing to write in this seemingly secret language for some time, you will begin to understand how to approach legal issues and feel your sense of belonging in the legal community.
If this is still not enough to inspire you to continue working on legal writing and citation, read the cited case written by Judge Kent. He publicly humiliates attorneys for their lack of professionalism by broadcasting that “[b]oth attorneys have obviously entered into a secret pact–complete with hats, handshakes and cryptic words–to draft their pleadings entirely in crayon on the back sides of gravy-stained paper place mats, in the hope that the Court would be so charmed by their child-like efforts that their utter dearth of legal authorities in their briefing would go unnoticed.” Bradshaw v. Unity Marine Corp., 147 F. Supp. 2d 668, 670 (S.D. Tex. 2001) (emphasis added).
You do not want to be these attorneys, so take the time to practice legal writing and citation while you are in law school, where the stakes are not as high. You will definitely find these skills valuable later.
Good luck with the rest of the semester!