How being a better writer can help you become a better attorney

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An article in Writers Digest, “How Being An Attorney Helped Me Become A Writer,” caught my eye. The writer said: 

“The best legal job I ever had was clerking for a federal judge. I was responsible for writing the first draft of the rulings he would ultimately issue to the litigants. I lost sleep over the first case I was assigned, struggling to figure out the correct outcome. The draft I handed in to the judge reflected my own indecision—the writing was hedged and weak. The judge gently admonished me that the court must always project confidence and authority. He returned my draft with my wishy-washy words crossed out and the following written in: “The Court has reached the inexorable conclusion that . . .” I had to look up inexorable (it means unavoidable), but I learned a valuable lesson. Sometimes actual confidence will flow from appearing confident. A reader wants to feel she is in good hands. If you write with confidence and present yourself as a serious person, the reader will feel safe with you.”

Me thinks it works the other way, too. Clarity and confidence in your writing helps clients feel safe with you. 

Is there any wiggle room? Is it okay to act confident even when you’re not?

Ultimately, that’s what each of us has to decide.

Sometimes, you have to bluntly tell the client how the course of action you’re recommending could blow up in their face. Sometimes, you have to offer a more gentle weighing of the possible outcomes. And sometimes, you have to point out all the options and ask them what they want you to do.

One thing is certain. When you’re in court, make sure your conclusions are always inexorable.

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