August 20, 2019

Archives for September 22, 2015

Associate’s Mind: Book Review — Writing to Win

keith-lee-birmingham-alabama-attorneyEditor’s Note: This post originally appeared on July 12, 2012, on Keith Lee’s blog, Associate’s Mind. Reprinted with permission.

CLE in Colorado is hosting two half-day programs presented by Writing to Win author Steven Stark; see below for registration information.

Roughly a month ago I received a review copy of Steven Stark’s Writing To Win. It’s taken this long for me to get the review up because A) I’ve been busy and B) I always fully read any book I receive and Writing To Win is long and dense – albiet in the all the best ways possible. Writing To Win now sits next to Ross Guberman’s Point Made as one of my favorite books on legal writing.

In my review of Point Made I stated:

Point Made is not an introductory level book. If you’re not familiar with basic legal writing, you might be better off starting somewhere else. But it might be the best technique oriented legal book I’ve ever read . . . Point Made is a tactical book. Point Made provides granular-level advice that can immediately be implemented in your writing.

Writing To Win is the introductory book I would hand anyone looking to learn about legal writing. If I were to design a legal writing course, it would be the course textbook.

Writing To Win’s strength is in its organization and clarity of purpose. Both of which are what Stark emphasizes again and again as fundamental tenant of strong legal writing. The book is broken into four section:

  1. The Fundamentals of Legal Writing
  2. The Fundamentals of Argument for All Lawyers
  3. Writing in Litigation
  4. Writing in Legal Practice

The first section, The Fundamentals of Legal Writing, begins with a focus on organization. It then moves into the actual construction of text. Like every other good book on legal writing in emphasizes core points:

  • Avoid legal jargon
  • Keep it short
  • Keep it simple
  • Write for the reader, not for yourself

But Stark lays it out in a very effective way. Each topic is broken down, examined, then placed into context of the the larger purposes of legal writing. Each topic also flows directly into the next one while building on top of the previous material. It’s masterfully done – the text is a perfect example of the type of writing Stark is discussing.

The second section, The Fundamentals of Argument for All Lawyers, takes a very different approach to crafting legal arguments than I imagine is taught in most law schools. For example this section:

So any time you compose an argument . . . my advice would be to do enough research first to get a general sens of the law. No matter how complex the matter, this research should never take more than an hour or so. Then put all you research aside ask yourself, if I had to explain to a judge, or another lawyer, or a client why we should win without resorting to any precedent or law, what would I say? In laymen’s terms, why are we right? Then write those reasons down. . .

Outline the argument, research it later.

Which I have found to be an excellent tool in my own writing. It’s just a shame that I had to come to it on my own and was not taught it in law school. I was also pleased to see that Stark gave heavy emphasis to the advertising industry. Like I stated in my post about the writing blogs I follow, I think lawyers could gain a lot my studying the techniques the advertising industry uses to persuade consumers. It’s nice to see it echoed in Writing To Win. 

Also, Stark emphasizes the use of narrative in argument. A well constructed narrative is the difference between a slog of a brief and one that pulls the reader along. Stark quotes Chief Justice John Roberts in this section, which makes the point most succinctly:

Every lawsuit is a story, I don’t care if its about a dry contract interpretation; you’ve got two people who want to accomplish something, and they’re coming together – that’s a story. And you’ve got to tell a good story.

Sorry lawyers, you’ve got to be good authors too. But most of you probably secretly want to do that anyway.

The last two sections, Writing in Litigation and Writing in Legal Practice, provide detailed strategies for tackling a number of styles of legal writing. From affidavits to appeals, from memos to emails, Stark provides concrete methods for making smooth, organized, flowing language that should make the text easier to parse for readers. The sections are littered with tips like study a cookbook or board game to improve your technical writing (taking a complex set of rules and systems and explaining them in a way that anyone can understand). It’s too much to go into here, but it Stark does an excellent job covering the most common writing scenarios lawyers deal with day to day.

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Earlier I stated that Writing To Win “is the introductory book I would hand anyone looking to learn about legal writing.” This not because the book is simple or a beginner level book – it’s because it is one of the clearest and most well organized books on legal writing I’ve had the pleasure to read. Any law student or new lawyer looking to brush up on their writing skills would do well to pick up this book. Highly recommended.

Worth noting, the Appendix of the book contains 8 General Rules for Professionalism in Legal Writing. The number one rule?

Never lie under any circumstance. 

Sometimes I think lawyers forget that.

Keith Lee is a lawyer in Birmingham, Alabama. He is the founder and editor-in-chief of Associate’s Mind, one of the most popular legal blogs in the US. Associate’s Mind has been linked to by the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Above the Law, ABA Journal, dozens of  blogs and websites, and has been featured as an Editor’s Pick at the Browser. It is frequently featured in the national newsletter, Technolawyer, and many of its articles were syndicated to LexisNexis. Associate’s Mind was selected as one of the “Blawg 100″ by the ABA Journal for 2011. Keith also writes a weekly column for Above The Law.

CLE in Colorado is hosting two half-day programs presented by Writing to Win author Steven D. Stark on October 1, 2015: “Legal Writing in the Smartphone Age” in the morning and “Writing to Win” in the afternoon. All attendees of the afternoon program will receive a copy of Writing to Win. To register, click the links below or call (303) 860-0608.

CLE Programs: Legal Writing in the Smartphone Age AND Writing to Win

These CLE presentations will take place Thursday, October 1, 2015 at the CLE offices. Click here to register for “Legal Writing in the Smartphone Age,” click here to register for “Writing to Win,” and click here to register for both programs. These programs are also available as webcasts.

Rebecca Rankin Freyre Appointed to Colorado Court of Appeals

On Friday, September 18, 2015, Governor Hickenlooper appointed Rebecca Rankin Freyre to the Colorado Court of Appeals, effective immediately. Ms. Freyre will fill a vacancy created by the appointment of Hon. Richard Gabriel to the Colorado Supreme Court.

Ms. Freyre has been with the Colorado State Public Defender’s Office since 1991, where she currently serves in the appellate division, handling direct appeals of felony convictions, sentences, and post-conviction matters. Prior to her work in the appellate division, Ms. Freyre served as a felony trial deputy, where she handled a full adult felony caseload in district court. She also worked as a trial deputy in Arapahoe County, representing indigent adults and juveniles. Ms. Freyre received her undergraduate degree from Smith College and her law degree from the University of Denver College of Law.

For more information about the appointment, click here.

Tenth Circuit: Venue for Immigration Appeals Tied to Immigration Judge’s Location at Final Hearing

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Lee v. Lynch on Wednesday, July 1, 2015.

Yang You Lee is a citizen of Thailand who received lawful refugee status through his Laotian parents and was admitted to the United States in 1987 at age 5. In 2014, an Immigration Judge in Dallas found him removable for a misdemeanor domestic assault charge that was a crime of violence. The BIA agreed with the IJ and dismissed his appeal. Mr. Lee filed a petition for review in the Fifth Circuit, which sua sponte summarily transferred the petition to the Tenth Circuit. The Tenth Circuit asked the parties to address venue under 8 U.S.C. § 1252(b)(2) and reviewed their responses.

The Tenth Circuit first addressed whether § 1252 affects subject matter jurisdiction or is an ordinary venue provision. Following the reasoning of a number of sister circuits that have addressed the issue, the Tenth Circuit concluded that § 1252 is a non-jurisdictional venue provision. Next, analyzing the plain language of the statute, the Circuit found venue tied to the IJ’s location when the IJ completes removal proceedings. Although the Attorney General argued venue was proper in the Tenth Circuit because the final hearing location was docketed as Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, the Tenth Circuit noted the final hearing was held in Dallas and all parties physically appeared in Dallas. The Tenth Circuit declined to defer to agency pronouncements and followed the language of the statute. The Tenth Circuit noted that although transfer would further delay the proceedings, the Fifth Circuit is the proper venue.

The Tenth Circuit transferred the petition to review to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Tenth Circuit: Unpublished Opinions, 9/21/2015

On Monday, September 21, 2015, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued one published opinion and one unpublished opinion.

United States v. Serrano-Rodriguez

Case summaries are not provided for unpublished opinions. However, published opinions are summarized and provided by Legal Connection.