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Writing to Win - Steven Stark

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If Steven Stark's Writing to Win were required reading in 1L legal research and writing classes, there's a good chance I would still be a lawyer. How's that for a recommendation?

Not that the book would have made me a that much better of a writer. My two undergraduate majors, English and Philosophy, were both writing intensive, so I like to think that I started law school with some decent skills in this area. And if you're a regular reader of this site, that hopefully implies that you agree.

Writing to Win's basic premise is that "legal writing" is terrible concept and you should just focus on good writing. Everything you hate about legal writing, the ten dollar words and paragraph length sentences, Stark tells you not to do. Write simply, get to the point, craft a good story, and try not to sound like a damn lawyer.

Had I learned in law school that lawyers were allowed to write like a human being, I think I would have found much more passion for the work. Perhaps enough passion that I would have been valuable enough to escape being laid off. Or if not that, then enough passion that I would have wanted to get back into the game after losing my job.

So what I'm trying to say is fork over the $17 and read the damn book before it's too late. Seriously, why this is not required reading for every single 1L is beyond me.

Actually, no, it's not beyond me. Most professors know shit about writing, and that's why it's not assigned. This is Stark's assessment as well - not about why his book isn't assigned, but that law school is overrun with terrible writing.

The vast majority of writing you will encounter in law school is appellate court level opinions and law journal articles. Neither of these is in the style that a young lawyer should be learning. Judicial opinions attempt to answer a question in such a way that makes the rule clear, explains the thought process that led to it, and which minimizes the chances of being overturned on appeal. That's not what you're doing as a lawyer. Lawyers advise and advocate, yet you're unlikely to read anything in law school which does that. You see the opinion, not the briefs that the parties filed.

As for reading law journal articles ...don't read law journal articles.

Writing to Win does focus almost exclusively on writing for litigation, as the title suggests. But, it's still a good read for people who are planning to work in a corporate or T&E practice. Some of the structural things won't be relevant, but the book is mostly about the nuts and bolts of what it takes to write well and in a way that conveys your ideas effectively. If you're going to a large firm, you're going to be writing a lot of memos to partners (and to their filing cabinets), so you're going to need to learn a lot of the same skills that go in to writing an effective brief for a court.


tl;dr: It's $17, 290 pages, and if you read it your legal career - and indeed your entire life - may go much, much better.

[Writing to Win on Amazon]

[Also available on Kindle]

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