In most cases, the legal issue determines the topic of your writing. What is the purpose of your document? If you don't know what you need to accomplish, you don't have a writing goal. Your messages may conflict with each other because they have not been thoroughly thought out. Your writing will have a different tone if you are trying to persuade a reader than it will if you are merely informing the reader. Various legal documents serve various purposes. For example, a document might inform, elicit information, persuade, record, describe, satisfy court rules, threaten, or to give notice. Some documents might serve more than one purpose. A deed conveys ownership of property, but when it is recorded in the courthouse, it serves as a record.
1. Specify your Purpose
2. Rank your Purpose
3. Accomplish your Purpose
4. Dealing with Conflicting Purposes
Who will read and use the document? There may be many audiences, based on what kind of document you are drafting. Each reader will have varying abilities to understand what you write. You must balance sophistocation with simplicity. The better organized your material is, the more it will be understood by varying audiences. Lawyers communicate with other lawyers, the court, and with outsiders, like clients, witnesses, and record-keepers. Clients may run the gamut from business people to those who have little education, and the lawyer's communications must be understood.
Education and Reading Level
Familiarity with Subject Matter
Familiarity with Legal Language
Physical or Other Problems
In legal writing, each type of document has a specific format. You will not be able to draft a legal memorandum in the same way thatyou draft pleadings. There are other constraints, as well. For example, time, paper size, mailing requirements, and reproduction may be issues to consider as you plan your writing.
Research your topic. Find not only the law that supports your topic, but also the law that contradict your thesis. You will always research, or use, primary law first. Though you can begin your research with secondary law, your sources should always point to primary law, if any exists.
Primary Sources of Law
Secondary Sources of Law
After your research, determine which information is appropriate for your document. Keep everything until your document is finished. You may find that you need something after you have thrown it away.
Create an outline to guide you in your writing. For persuasive documents, such as the one you will write for your class project, the main section requires a special type of structure. The main part of t he document will consist of an analysis of the issues and sub-issues.
Identify and Presenting Issues
Present the Rule
Analyze Facts and Law
Provide a Conclusion
Although the legal community tends to write in a formal fashion, the writing should be clear to any reader who must read the information. Write in short sentences, as the average reader can only hole a few ideas at a time in short-term memory. Your goal, however, is clarity, not brevity for it's own sake. Make sure that you have structured your sentences grammatically correctly. Have you spelled all words correctly? Use your grammar-and-spell check. THEN, proofread.
In the legal field, formatting is VERY important. All legal documents of a specific type will look similar to each other. Sometimes, there are written rules about format that you must follow. For example, in appeals work, the font type and size are even specified and a legal professional adheres to the rules.
To navigate in this mindmap: 1. An icon that looks like a page indicates that there are notes for that topic. 2. A circle icon with an arrow in it indicates that there is a clicakble Web link associated with the topic. 3. A plus sign means that there is more information in reference to the topic that can be reached by clicking the sign. 4. An icon that looks like a paperclip indicates that there is a file that can be opened by clicking the icon.