Today, there is little or nothing a lawyer can do without writing; for judges, absolutely nothing. Writing well is the most critical and yet the rarest skill in law. To succeed in the legal profession, writing well is key.
In his book, Legal Writing Fundamentals (2014), Chinua Asuzu, the CEO of the Write House and expert in legal writing, puts it this way: “Today’s legal world is writing-biased. Written argument is required at trial and appellate courts. Writing also dominates arbitration and alternative dispute resolution.”
Everyone needs sound training in legal writing. But most lawyers and judges do not think so. Many senior lawyers, particularly, don’t think they need any legal-writing training. At best, they recommend it to their junior colleagues. “Who needs legal-training at this stage!?” one senior lawyer within the premises of the Lagos State High Court, Igbosere, once remarked dismissively.
But do you know that most lawyers who think they write well do not? Carl Felsenfeld, a learned writer, eloquently wrote in a U.S. Business Law Journal, “Lawyers have two common failings. One is that they do not write well, and the other is that they think they do.”
In Nigeria, the foundation for sound legal writing has never been strong. Only a negligible number of Faculties across the country teach it. Most law teachers lack the skills required to train law students–even in the Law School.
As a pioneer writer, teacher, and consultant on legal writing in Nigeria, Chinua Asuzu believes that “…this (the lack of legal-writing training) is not a recent deficiency, Nigerian lawyers at all levels (including judges, legal-department heads, partners, professors, and SANs) generally write poorly.”
Well, now you know.
International best practices now require lawyers to prepare legal documents in clear language. It’s high time lawyers embraced open communication with their clients. This enables lay clients, readers, or users easily access legal documents. It’s important that they do. We need to realise that law is not just for lawyers alone. Law is for everyone. And it’s good business to write well. It’s like dressing smart, and more.
Writing well is like making good music, elegantly and beautifully. If music is the food of love, words must be the food of law. And what is music without being played; what are words without being written. A fine musician must play beautifully; a sound lawyer must write elegantly.
And if she is diligent in her craft, she will stand before kings.
And this is why I am proud to be part of the The Write House team. Since 2012, the legal-writing consuting and training firm has been filling the writing gap in Nigerian law. As Africa’s frontline team of legal-writing coaches, consultants, experts, mentors, and teachers, our experience has been that lawyers, judges, and legal personnel trained in legal writing benefit immensely. It improves the chances of professional success.
To succeed with sound legal writing, you need to acquire relevant skills. Mainly culled from The Write House Corporate Profile, I list 5 career-enhancing benefits of legal writing training as follows:
Legal writing training enhances your efficiency. For organizations, legal-writing training is sound economics. It improves economies of scale by enhancing efficiency and utilization. Fewer hands will complete more tasks in fewer hours.
It deepens your branding, credibility, employability, and ethos. For both individual attorneys and organizations, legal-writing training deepens branding, credibility, employability, and ethos. Good writing is directly proportional to good business manners, professional image, and brand differentiation.
Legal-writing training helps you write clearly and effectively, commanding respect.
Trainees learn to prepare legal documents in plain English, dropping the legalese and verbosity that plague much legal writing. Refreshingly clear legal writing retains the majesty of legal language and commands the respect of modern readers.
It improves your expressive and persuasive skills. Express yourself and persuade effectively. Our training boosts trainees’ expressive capacity and persuasive force.
It exposes you to international best practices in legal writing. Heads, HR departments, and partners in law firms and legal departments should assess writing skills of applicants for legal positions. They cannot conduct this assessment unless they themselves are exposed to international best practices in legal writing, as taught by The Write House.
Legal writing is an art. It is also a science. Excellent legal writing skills does not only give you an amazing competitive edge; it best assures a successful legal career.
Senator Iyere Ihenyen is an Associate at Assizes Lawfirm and The Write House – www.writehouseng.com. Senator practices in Lagos. He enjoys writing. He has special interest in Intellectual Property and Information Technology, two areas he writes on at Nigerian Law Today as a founding contributor. Senator can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org