Typos happen. Writing mistakes happen. (From time to time I lapse into Modern Students Apostrophic Style, which inserts apostrophe’s in plural noun’s but never in the students possessive’s.) I cringe at every error in my Casebook. Writing errors detract from the content. Legal writing takes many deserved knocks, but the lawyers I know generally write better than other professionals, and they certainly write better than most of the businesspeople I’ve encountered. The quality of student writing is better today than it was ten years ago, but the average written work is still no more than serviceable.
For students interested in law serviceable writing is not good enough. No matter the type of law a lawyer practices he must know his way around an English sentence. Writing quality affects grades, class rank, employment prospects, and professional success, as Don’t Let This Be You: The Cost of Carelessly Written Pleadings and Court Papers illustrates. This post deals with a court order that halved the plaintiff’s counsel’s fee request because of the sloppiness of his written work. (Sample line: “If these mistakes were purposeful, they would be brilliant. However, based on the history of the case and Mr. P’s filings, we know otherwise.” Not the professional reputation one wants to achieve.