Why You Need to Read This Blog Every Month

by admin 10. June 2013 09:57


Most people fall into two general categories when it comes to writing: those who enjoy putting words to paper—and those who would rather face a root canal than the prospect of composing 10 pages of anything. In law school we used to say, only half joking, that the former became litigators and the latter went the corporate route.

I'm here to tell you that it doesn't matter if you like to write or if you hate it. It doesn't matter if you write a lot or just a little in your practice. What does matter is learning how to write, and write well, in all of your communications. If I need to explain to you why strong writing skills are so important, you are probably in the wrong profession.

For those of you reading this thinking, "Well, I love to write, so I must be in the clear," think again. Yes, many people who like to write are naturally strong writers. But some are merely prolific, and, while they write a lot, what they say is confusing, boring or meaningless. My goal is to help all writers—those who love it and those who tolerate it—improve the way they communicate. I expect to learn a few things along the way as well.

How to Improve Your Writing Skills

Whether or not you are a strong writer, there is always room for improvement. And first, you should determine just how much "room" you actually have.

1. Figure out if you're a good writer.

Do people seek you out for writing projects—both billable and not—at your firm? If you are a newer lawyer, how much rewriting and editing does your work typically need? Has your writing ever been praised, criticized or questioned by judges, co-counsel, clients or others? Do articles you have written get attention in the legal community? Do you even write articles for the legal community?

Answer these questions honestly to get a feeling for your skill as a writer. If you are still not sure, ask for an honest assessment from someone whose judgment you trust. If her answer leaves you wanting to shred your latest brief, move on to the next suggestion.

2. Find ways to improve your writing skills.

Designate some of your CLE credits for writing seminars—the Chicago Bar Association always has a couple in its webinar archives. Find a writing coach either through your firm or independently. Subscribe to writing websites such as the Legal Writing Prof Blog. Do some non-billable writing such as an article for a bar association journal or an "alert" for your clients. Seek out strong writers in your firm and ask them to edit your work and give you honest feedback. And: LEARN PROPER GRAMMAR. Please.

3. Practice what you learn in all of your communications.

Don't save your best writing skills for that appellate brief in the 7th Circuit. The quick email you need to dash off to opposing counsel deserves the same attention, and you are more likely to get the response you seek if you think about what you want to say and how you want to say it before you start typing. Give your clients a reason to open the "content marketing" you send them by crafting a concise but enticing email to go with it. And then make sure the actual content—whether an article, alert or reminder—is readable and useful, too.

4. Read this blog every month.

I hope the title of this blog made you curious to find out why you needed to read it. Grabbing your readers' attention and giving them useful, well-organized information are just some of the subjects I will discuss each month. You already know that what you have to say is important. But how you say it is equally important, whether you tweet it or write it in a 30-page document. Don't let poor writing skills muddle your message.

This is where I should write a pithy conclusion that sums up everything I talked about above. But if I did my job, you don't need a summary because you already absorbed the lessons the first time you read them. So consider this blog concluded.

Melanie is a lawyer who is passionate about writing and a writer who is passionate about the law. After trying "the law-firm-associate thing" (at Sonnenschein, Nath and Rosenthal), the "teaching-legal-writing thing" (at The John Marshall Law School) and "the clerkship thing" (for the Hon. Marvin Aspen and the Hon. Michael Mason), Melanie found the perfect job, combining her labor and employment background with her writing skills as an in-house legal writer at Seyfarth Shaw. Three kids later, she co-founded The GhostWriters legal and business writing practice. She now makes her own hours as she writes, blogs, lectures and generally carries on a torrid love affair with her computer.


Melanie Berkowitz | Write to the Point

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