Oxford Comma Decides Court Case in Favor of Workers’ Overtime

The Oxford Comma has become a rallying cry for grammar enthusiasts and has prompted a number of hilarious, if often inappropriate memes. But now the dispute over style and punctuation has gotten serious, deciding the fate of several workers’ claim for overtime pay in Maine. Continue reading

Structuring Your Motion and Brief to Make Them Better

Have you ever read a motion and wondered what’s left for the brief? Or waded through a brief only to find a compelling argument buried at the end? Everyone has read a bad brief, But how can you keep from writing one? It all starts with structure. Continue reading

Does Your Website Make the Most of White Space?

Everyone knows that content is king. Writing high-quality webpages and blog posts is the key to increased web traffic and closed business. But what about the space between the words? Could your use of white space actually help support your content? Continue reading

3 Tips for Effective Client Letters

Not all of your writing goes to the courts or the web. No matter what your practice area, eventually you will have to write a letter to your client. So take the time to make them effective and add quality to your customer experience. Continue reading

Michigan Supreme Court Releases New Citation Rules

This month the Michigan Supreme Court issued a new set of citation rules called the Michigan Appellate Opinion Manual. These standards apply to judges opinions and to lawyers’ briefs alike. While there aren’t too many changes from the previous standard of legal citation, the manual does have some useful suggestions:

Short-Form Citations

You only have to provide the full citation to a case once (such as Hays v Lutheran Social Servs of Mich, 300 Mich App 54, 56-59; 832 NW2d 433 (2013)). After that you can use a short-form citation (Hays, 300 Mich App at 59). If you haven’t referred to any cases in between, or if the sentence makes clear which case you are referring to, you can also use Id. (Id. at 60), but only for cases, not statutes.

String Citations

If you are tempted to string together multiple sources to prove your point, the Court says don’t. String citations “disrupt the flow of the text and burden readers.” Cooney, Stringing Readers Along, 85 Mich B J 44 (Dec 2006).

Long Case Names

If you are citing a case which has a name that goes on for days you can abbreviate it as long as what you end up with still allows the reader to identify the case. For example:

Original: Trout Unlimited Muskegon – White River Chapter v City of White
Cloud, 195 Mich App 343; 489 NW2d 188 (1992).
Shortened: Trout Unlimited v White Cloud, 195 Mich App 343; 489 NW2d 188 (1992).

Unavailable Citations

The Court provided a format to use if you are quoting a case so new it hasn’t been published yet: Bev Smith, Inc v Atwell, ___ Mich App ___, ___; ___ NW2d ___ (2013) (Docket No. 308761); slip op at 3.

Statutory Ranges

If you are citing a range of statutes, repeat the “MCL” before the end of the range: MCL 769.1 through MCL 769.36.

Capitalizing Statutes

If the act contains a short title, capitalize the first letter of each substantive word, and do not include the year of enactment. Sponsors should be eliminated (i.e. the Civil Rights Act rather than the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act). The word “Michigan” should be used when part of the short title or when distinguishing a Michigan law from another jurisdiction’s statute with the same title. If an act does not have an official title, the short title should not be capitalized (i.e. the no fault act).

Legal Teatises

If a legal treatise has more than 3 authors, keep the first name and then add “et al.” Once you cite the treatise in full once, you can refer to it by the author’s name in a short-form citation.

Internet Materials

Because the Reporter’s Office creates an archive of Internet materials cited in published opinions, judges will avoid quoting any website that requires a subscription or with video. The inability to view these materials later can undermine their precedential value, so use alternative sources when you can.

Legal citation may seem very boring to the average practitioner. But being up to date on the latest formatting and citation rules will help your briefs look professional and persuasive to clients and judges alike.

Lisa Schmidt is a ghostwriter for Legal Linguist in Southfield, Michigan. She can provide thoroughly researched motion and brief writing services using up to date citation methods. For help meeting your filing deadlines, contact Legal Linguist today.

 

NaNoWriMo Tells Bloggers to Write Bigger

November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). This month writers across the country and internationally will be scrambling to write 50,000 words in 30 days. Most bloggers are afraid of anything long-form. But NaNoWriMo and it’s non-fiction counterpart, National Nonfiction Writing Month (NaNonFiWriMo) can inspire bloggers to do more with their archived articles, even publish a book.

If you are like many bloggers, you are convinced you don’t have time to write anything longer than your weekly 500 word blog post. Maybe you have trouble even finding that much time to write. So when your readers tell you “you should write a book” you cringe in fear.

Bloggers and short-story writers have the same take on this: there’s no way they have it in them to write something that long. Sure, 500 words a week may be easy enough, but who could possibly create whole chapters of original content?

The thing is, you may have already done just that. The average non-fiction book runs 50,000 to 75,000 words. But an eBook could be as little as 3,000. That’s 6 blog posts. If you look back at your blogging archive it’s a safe bet you have 6 or 10 or maybe even 20 posts all on the same topic. With a little editing, there is your book.

Books and eBooks can also be a great way to repurpose your hard-wrote blogs and even make a little money. By re-editing your blog series on weathering a bankruptcy, you could create a self-help book that earns you money while you sleep.

Being a published author can also boost your reputation and distinguish you from your competition. Imagine being able to offer potential clients a free copy of a book with your name on the cover and your picture on the fly-leaf. Pretty impressive. Why would they go with any other lawyer when you literally wrote the book on their issue?

You may not think you have the time to write a book, but the organizations that run NaNoWriMo and NaNonFiWriMo beg to differ. And when you already have the content written in your blog, what do you have to lose? Join the thousands of writers dedicated to creating a book this November. You may thank yourself later.

 

Lisa Schmidt is a writer for Legal Linguist in Southfield, Michigan. She can offer you and your firm writing services from ghost-blogging to brief writing, to ghostwriting a book based on your blog content. If you don’t have time to write it yourself, contact Legal Linguist to reach a ghost writer today.

 

Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month

 

Writing Simply: Avoid Legalese

Lawyers and other highly trained professionals are in danger. They don’t know how talk to their clients, and so in the world of social media they risk losing followers by talking over their heads. So how can you fight the disease of legalese? Here are some tips:

Drop the Dictionary

Every lawyer has developed an elaborate vocabulary of legal terms, in both latin and English. But using those terms in your blog doesn’t make you sound smart. Instead it confuses your readers and makes your blog hard to read. Drop the dictionary and cut out anything you might have to define if that same client walked into your office. If you’re not sure, ask a non-lawyer friend what they think a word means. You may be surprised what counts as legalese.

Shorten Your Sentences

One of the symptoms of legalese is long, wandering sentences with lots of commas. Particularly when viewed on a mobile device, these sentences can seem to go on forever. Your readers will get lost in the maze of clauses and eventually just give up. Befriend the period. Break up your sentences into easily digestible pieces. Your readers will thank you for it.

Check Your Tone

One sure way to avoid a legalese infection is to read your blog posts aloud. Blogs should be conversational, so if your article sounds more like a lecture you know you have a problem. Take your formality down a notch and change up your style. You’re not teaching a class, you’re writing to a friend. Tone can be tough to manage, but with some practice you can develop a style that is compelling and conversational.

The last thing your followers are looking for on your blog is a legal brief. So if you find yourself at risk of spouting legalese, stop, look, and listen. Walk away from your blog post for at least an hour. Come back and read it anew. And if you aren’t sure about your tone read it aloud to a non-lawyer. If you still need help managing your tone, contact blogging coach Lisa Schmidt for a meeting.