December 16, 2014 Articles

The Young Litigator's Approach to Legal Writing

By Courtney E. Walter

All lawyers have been there—the first “official” day as a lawyer at a brand new job. While undeniably exciting, it may also be overwhelming. For some, your new law firm will host an orientation and provide you with a structured training program. You will be given all the details on your role, your responsibilities, and the resources you may use. For others, you are thrown into the mix: no training program, no orientation, and no idea where to start. As an attorney, no two days are the same. One day, you may be answering phones and responding to e-mails, while the next day, you may be sitting alongside a partner during jury selection. Each day offers another opportunity to learn something new in a training program that continues throughout your career.

As a young litigator, however, there is one responsibility that is inevitable: you will write, and you will write a lot. The partners for whom you work will depend on your ability to convey ideas clearly and concisely on paper, whether in legal memoranda, correspondence, motions, appellate briefs, or even e-mails. When more senior associates or partners handle oral arguments, newer associates are often tasked with the responsibility of building the underlying legal framework and creating the written argument. Good legal writing is even more important in federal courts, which often do not schedule oral arguments at all. Your approach will differ for each assignment, attorney, and law firm. But your writing must always be persuasive, powerful, and supported by relevant and credible legal authority.

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