Thanks to Karoli, yet again.
Here. (ID = Intelligent Design, not Identification)
Finally. I was beginning to think that CT lawyers were going to continue to shun the web and the blawgosphere. I just stumbled across this new blog today, creatively titled the Connecticut Criminal Lawyer Blog. Written by a solo, Nicholas Adamucci, the blog has a few informational posts, but nothing “bloggy” yet. Hopefully, he’ll get around to writing blog posts and not just regurgitating statute provisions. Unfortunately, comments are not enabled, so maybe he’ll see the traffic from here.
Okay, so perhaps not as pronounced as in the title (and certainly not bad spelling), but as this National Law Journal article points out, lawyers are getting worse at legal writing.
Like other writing coaches, Garner sees the influence of technology in attorney writing, and, in many ways, he is not amused.
“They are losing concentration with what they’re writing about,” said Garner, who also is co-author with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia of Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges, which was released last month.
This piece spends a considerable amount of time explaining how advances in technology serve to interrupt the “flow” of a writer’s thoughts and create distractions. These distractions prevent us from writing in a coherent and simple manner.
“It’s a problem of distraction,” said Jennifer Murphy Romig, a legal writing and research instructor at Emory University School of Law and a writing coach to law firms.
She notes that interference with writing has always been present. A few years ago, it was computer solitaire, she said, and before that it was the old-fashioned crossword puzzle. But she describes today’s distractions — including texting, e-mail on a desktop computer, Blackberry messages and online news alerts — as “more aggressive.”
In addition, most of those distractions involve human communication, which makes them all the more attractive to attend to rather than drafting a brief on, say, jurisdiction.
My problem with writing is slightly different. As my readers (and co-workers) will surely attest, I often don’t know when to stop or how to get where I want to go. I’m not ashamed of it. I’m always learning, trying to get better.
I write (for work) like I think: mostly meandering. It’s not that there isn’t a (to me) logical sequence. There is. I just leave it out and expect the reader to follow. And then there are the times when I’ve had enough. I’ve spent 5 pages setting up the law and the facts and started making the argument and I think to myself: Well, that’s pretty clear. So I move on.
Technological innovations also have an up-side, as anyone who has used spell-check will know.
Word processing basics, such as spell-check, passive-voice detection and subject-verb disagreement prompters can make more time for “what’s really hard about writing,” she said.
Advances in legal research also have improved writing, she said. Before online research, Shepardizing a case, for example, required a trip to the library to page through creaky volumes.
But the use of electronic research can create problems, especially for beginners, she said. All cases in electronic form look basically alike, she said.
That last line is a lead-in to a bizarre theory that if you don’t hold the book in your hand, you’re likely to miss that a case is from a non-binding jurisdiction or from the 1920s.
Or it could just be a cover-up for inattentiveness. I’m just saying.
I think these “problems” are not confined to legal writing. The same could be said of trial lawyering, communication, negotiation. We are a constantly distracted society and either you have it in you to focus and push everything else aside, or you don’t. In which case, you better learn how to multi-task well. In the end, all that matters is the client and how effectively you represent him/her.
See? What the heck did that last paragraph have to do with anything? Come join the joyride!
(PS: Obviously, my work is vetted before I turn it in [for the most part], so don’t run around thinking my briefs are awful. They’re not.)
Now enjoy the Joyride: