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Tips for Attorneys on How To Be a Better Writer
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Summary: Simple tips on how attorneys can improve their writing. 

Attorneys cannot excel in the profession without solid writing and proofreading skills, attention to detail, and strong analytical thinking. During the course of a day, lawyers read and write constantly, and when on the job hunt, a writing sample plays as much of a part in the interview process as a resume.

  
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BCG Attorney Search CEO Harrison Barnes, who has placed thousands of attorneys at top law firms, shared how one promising candidate lost their position because of his or her writing sample. Although the candidate had a great personality and the right experience, the writing sample had typos and fragmented sentences, which gave the law firm the impression the candidate had poor attention to detail and bad proofreading skills.

So what can we do to not be like the aforementioned lawyer? The following are easy tips on how to improve your writing sample and put your best foot forward.

WRITE FOR READABILITY 

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There was a time when those in the legal profession wrote in a complicated manner that made them look smart by confusing the heck out of everyone else. Luckily, those days are gone. Writing clearly so that others can get your point quickly is now more desirable, and this new writing style is even having an impact on the citation section. Since 2011, prominent judge Richard Posner has called for an end to the Bluebook in favor of a more concise legal sourcing system. Why write 50 words when 10 will do?

If you have any questions about your own readability, Microsoft Office has a feature called Readability Statistics that analyses your word choice, sentence length, and structure to determine how complicated your writing is and thus how easy to read your work is. The feature has a scale from 0 to 100, and as you can probably guess, you want a higher number, which means more people are able to understand what you are trying to say.

FORMAT CORRECTLY

There are some things that we know to do when formatting a draft such as using one space after a sentence instead of two and making sure the line spacing matches standard format. However, it’s easy to make formatting mistakes. While some may advise setting your formatting settings beforehand, the easiest method to getting formatting right is to remove all automatic line and paragraph spacing and just add those spaces manually. When creating your document, you want there to be enough white space so that the material is easy on the eyes while still following the standard format rules.

PROOFREAD

It’s easy to make typos. It happens. Yet, an employer is not going to be forgiving so you have to up your game. Barnes suggests proofing your writing several times, and he suggests printing out a copy to edit, not just relying on what you see on your screen.

When editing, Barnes suggests you look out for the following:

  • Typos and extra spaces between words or sentences
  • Bluebooking errors
  • Consistent formatting
  • Spelling and grammar
  • Correct case citations

Once you’re done with those proofreading steps, Barnes suggests going over it one last time. There’s almost always something you’ve missed.

CONVERT YOUR WORK TO A PDF

Lastly, when sending out your work, make sure to convert it from a Word file to a PDF. This way, if God forbid there were any typos or formatting mistakes, it will not be plagued with squiggly red and green lines showcasing the problems.

What writing tips do you recommend? Let us know in the comments below. 



 

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