“If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.” – Blaise Pascal.
“I am sorry Judge, I would have written a shorter brief if I had more time.” – The untrained legal writer.
While I quote the latter somewhat tongue in cheek, the reality is that inattention to legal writing will bottleneck a lawyer’s efficacy. Every law student has heard it before, “try to write well.” But if one is not careful, this statement can be understood as, “your legal writing is ancillary to your work as a lawyer.” This view on legal writing is fatal. That we have to communicate our ideas and positions in writing is not some necessary evil or a meaningless step in lawyering. Words, sentences, and paragraphs are the lawyer’s crafting bench. Lawyers forge their arguments with these units, they cast and recast arguments, and, like a silversmith, they test and retest for impurities. It seems bizarre that lawyers will let their own writing stand in the way of well-thought positions. Therefore, my charge is to develop myself as a legal writer. I could not be any more well positioned to do so than I am now as a summer associate at Bilzin Sumberg.
I am surrounded by some of the best litigators in the profession, and they are all so quick to help me navigate the journey to “good legal writing.” But it’s not just the litigators who are passionate about legal writing. My very first assignment came from Marty Schwartz, a partner in the Real Estate group who is passionate about shaping young lawyers into good legal writers. Marty wrote a great article, Do You Speak Legalese?, which should motivate transactional lawyers to develop their craft. Marty also wrote Legal Writing: Legalese, Please, another piece designed to help the transactional lawyer. Sara Herald, another attorney in the Real Estate group, has repeatedly mentioned her joint project with Marty to weed out poor legal writing. So, regardless of my inclination towards one group over another, there are people willing to support my development as a legal writer. Upon my realization that I was surrounded by all of these seasoned writers who were willing to help soon-to-be lawyers, I decided to take advantage of this rare opportunity.
I began reaching out to various attorneys with the goal of either meeting to discuss their methods to good legal writing or, alternatively, to develop a reading list that I can work through during my last year of law school. The response was overwhelming. So far I’ve met with Raquel Fernandez, Anthony Sirven, Luis Reyes, Michael Strauch, and Marty Schwartz. I also have an upcoming meeting with Jeffrey Snyder. All of these great people have given me the opportunity pick their brains to see what makes them good legal writers. I have had coffee sessions with some of them to discuss their process, received samples of how they handled various situations, received direct feedback on my work, and/or received a great list of books to work through.
It is very obvious that Bilzin Sumberg takes the proper view on legal writing. Early into the summer we had an extensive writing clinic that equipped us with the tools to develop ourselves as good legal writers. The fact that Bilzin Sumberg is supporting us in our development, and that those who have gone before us are so willing to mentor us, means that there is no ceiling as to how far we can go.
In sum, I feel quite fortunate to have found myself in a place that values lawyer development. After my judicial externship I gained a fire and passion to develop myself as a good legal writer; it is so encouraging to know that Bilzin Sumberg is actively working towards helping me grow that passion.