Saturday, July 23, 2011

Garner on writing in law school

Bryan A. Garner, in a New York Times forum on law school:

Most legal scholarship is poorly written and is mired in nonpractical abstraction that few can understand and fewer still can benefit from. Most law professors don’t know how to write well, so they could hardly teach the subject if they wanted to. On top of that, lawyers of all kinds — both academic lawyers and practicing ones — rationalize their linguistic ineptitude by claiming that legal jargon is necessary (most of it isn’t); that writing instruction is elementary, remedial stuff (it should progress to advanced techniques); and that writing style doesn’t matter anyway. But it does matter: clear writing equates with clear thinking, and judges and employers cry out for both. Put all these things together, and you have serious educational pathologies.
Garner’s suggested start toward a cure: “much more research, writing and editing,” with frequent short papers (revision required) in all second- and third-year classes.

Note, by the way, how well Garner writes.

[Garner recommends the Oxford comma. The Times must be responsible for "research, writing[,] and editing.”]

comments: 5

Anonymous said...

You may already know about this site, but just in case....

http://lawprose.org/index.php

Michael Leddy said...

Yes, I do, thanks. Garner’s work appears in a number of posts here.

Diane Schirf said...

Most attorneys I've worked with have liked to "correct" my writing.

Richard said...

"There are two things wrong with almost all legal writing. One is its style. The other is its content. That, I think, about covers the ground.”

--Fred Rodell (Yale Law School professor, 1933-1973)

Michael Leddy said...

Diane, when I think of your well-written blog, I have to wonder what they think they’re correcting.

Richard, that’s a great quotation, and it’s new to me.