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Legal Writing Resources

Yesterday I had the opportunity of leading a writing workshop for the Puget Sound chapter of the Association of Legal Administrators. What an intelligent, enthusiastic, precise group!

Participants had several questions specifically pertaining to their profession. Here are two:

  1. In a business letter, is it acceptable to CC “All Counsel” or do I need to list each attorney’s name? (The group recommended the list.)
  2. Is the serial comma (the comma before and in “Mr. Norton, Dr. Wills, and Ms. Raye”) required in legal writing? (We decided yes–the comma can make the difference between winning and losing a case.)

Their questions reminded me how important it is to have resources and references in one’s own field. Below are three legal writing blogs I recommend. Each one opens the door to many other legal writing resources.

  • The (New) Legal Writer. Tagline: A collection of resources for lawyers, who write.
  • Legal Research and Writing. Tagline: Practical insight and commentary on legal research and writing.
  • Tagline: Wayne Schiess on making legal writing clear, correct, direct.

Raymond Ward’s The (New) Legal Writer led me to Daniel U. Smith’s article “Ten Steps to Persuasive Legal Writing.” In it, Smith writes:

“If someone says you think like a lawyer, that is often a compliment. But if someone says you write like a lawyer, that’s always a criticism.”

The excellent efforts of bloggers Raymond Ward, Susan McDonald, and Wayne Schiess should go a long way in changing that perception.

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By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.