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Transcript of Legal Writing
Outlines and Legal Writing Tips
SECTIONS OF AN OUTLINE
2. WRITE IN PLAIN
Write concise sentences/paragraphs
Write full paragraphs with proper structure
Provide context and specificity
Writing = Hiking
How to structure an outline
What are the benefits of a
Outline = Map
Tells you (and the reader/teammate/supervisor):
where you are,
where you are going;
how you are going to get there
Headings = Signposts
Remind you where you are and where you are going
Can add or delete as the writing proceeds
Do not be afraid to leave most of your
research on the editing floor.
Depends on type of writing
Issues? Chronology? Importance?
Keep main headings to a minimum
Maintain overall balance
short phrases - "Access to Public Transportation"
full sentences - “Federal law requires school districts to provide transportation for students experiencing homelessness”
Provide the reader with a
"This report/brief addresses X, Y, and Z issues."
In persuasive writing Why you should win!
Do not include every detail.
Include only the most
important and relevant
Outline argument by using
Primary rule = treaty text
Secondary rule or RE = jurisprudence and soft law
Restatement of rule to fit your narrative
“In this case…”. “Here…”
State relevant facts for this issue
Apply facts to rule statement
“In conclusion…”. “Therefore…”
Request X (Court) to rule that Y (State)
violated Z (Rule), to the detriment of V (Victim),
because Y did/did not do something.
A conclusion will wrap up the sequence of ideas.
"Therefore, we win because of X, Y, and Z."
REPETITION IS ENCOURAGED!!!
The conclusion is no place to bring up new ideas.
Avoid unnecessary words and sentences.
Write short, simple sentences and short, simple paragraphs.
Keep the subject, the verb, and the object together--toward the beginning of the sentence.
Break up long paragraphs.
Topic sentences are particularly useful for writers who tend to sprawl.
Use connectors: “For example” “First” “Additionally”
Do you include more than one idea per paragraph?
Must you always use full paragraphs?
In a report, yes. In a brief, no.
Facts in a brief may be only one sentence.
This allows the other party to accept or reject each fact by paragraph number.
Show all the steps needed to go from point A to point B.
REPETITION IS OK!
“Tell them what you’re going to tell them.
Tell them. Tell them what you told them!”
Describe your writing process.
Do you outline?
Any other suggestions on outlining?
Make these sentences more concise:
1.A trial by jury was requested by the defendant.
2.In many instances, insofar as the jurors are concerned, the jury instructions are not understandable because they are too poorly written.
3.There are three reasons given in the majority opinion for its rejection of the approach taken by the Supreme Court in its earlier decisions with respect to the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment.
Don’t just throw in law, cases, or facts without explaining
why they are relevant
to your topic sentence.
Avoid using “this”, “they”, “those”. Be specific.
Flesh out your ideas
Do not copy/paste full paragraphs into your text.
Highlight the most relevant language and then
repeat it in your own words
apply it to your case
you think this is a great quote.
Use only the most relevant quotes
If quote is fewer than five lines:
set off with quotation marks [ “ ” ] and incorporate within the normal flow of your text.
If quote is more than five lines:
omit the quotation marks, "tab" the quoted language one inch from each margin, decrease font by one size, and use single-space.
In a brief,
EVERY RULE STATEMENT
More = Better!
Persuade both the
intellect and the heart
Argument is legally persuasive and
Use lists. Highlight statistics.
Avoid words like “
”, or “
”. They do not persuade. They may alienate the reader.
This is the
right and just
thing to do!
Pull at the heart strings without being cheesy.
“Trafficking victims are modern-day slaves”
Use the victims’ own words
(unless absolutely necessary)
This includes sentences that begin with “There is”.
Avoid using words such as "really", "very", "extremely", and "severely" when they are not
Be consistent in heading numbers (arabic or roman?), titles (all caps?), citations (“para.” or “par.”?), terminology (“victims” or “clients”?), etc.
Explain what are “T-Visas”.
Use plain language!
Don’t say there is a “plethora” of treaties. Give a complete list. Be precise.
Just because your research led you on curves and into dead-ends does not mean that you have to take your reader through them!
ENDING SENTENCES WITH PREPOSITIONS
(OF, ON, WITH, ETC.)
THINGS TO DO BEFORE HANDING IN A DRAFT
Use grammar/spelling checkers on word processors.
Too many errors can undermine your
as a legal professional.
Share it with a
Share it with a
Do your best. If you know you can do better, do not hand it in yet. Edit it again and then send it.
ALL THE WAY THROUGH AT LEAST ONCE
GIVE YOURSELF TIME FOR
Writing gets easier with practice!
Use persuasive subheadings
“Right to Judicial Protection”
, use the heading to make your argument:
“The State violated the right to judicial protection by failing to enforce domestic judgments”
The reader should be able to reconstruct your argument just by reading the headings and subheadings.
Tables of contents = Outlines
Make sure you narrate your transitions!
"After establishing X,
the next issue is Y."
Example: Jamaica sign-on letter
First rough draft
Express concern about violence.
Urge govt. to protect and to repeal law
Recent acts of violence are alarming
Buggery laws promote vigilante justice
Buggery laws violate intl. hum. rts. law
Urge Jamaica to protect LGBT and repeal law
Dominican Republic (Benito Tide)
exhaustion of domestic remedies
to guide your reader
Use “however”, “nevertheless”, “consequently”
Compare and Contrast Tables of Contents of HR Reports
See 9 examples
Inspired by these tables of contents, brainstorm a rough outline (table of content) for our homelessness report.