When you are writing a blog or webpage, it can be easy to fall into your normal, authoritative voice. But when authority turns into legalese, you will lose your readers. Do your webpages reach out to potential clients, or are do you ignore your audience? Continue reading
Lawyers and other professionals often take pride in sounding like they know what they are talking about. But is your language turning people away? If you write like you talk in the courtroom or especially in a legal brief, your blog could be too elite for your readers. Continue reading
There’s only so many hours in a day. If you are a busy lawyer, you could be juggling a number of priorities every day. And you never know when a client crisis could push you past your deadline and over the edge. Continue reading
Are you sick of readers hanging around, reading post after post and using up your bandwidth? Get rid of those pesky readers quickly by giving them headaches. Headaches will drive your readers away and leave you in peace and quiet. Here are 5 sure fire ways to give your readers headaches today: Continue reading
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
Whether you win or lose a case can often hinge on a single brief, so you want everything to be perfect. But what if you don’t have another lawyer available to look everything over? You can’t edit your own writing, can you? Yes. You can. Continue reading
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
If you work in a service-based industry like law, one of the things that sets you apart from your competition is you – your personality and demeanor. Make sure that personality shines through in your blog so potential clients get a glimpse of what to expect.
One of the best uses of an initial consultation in the legal world is for lawyer and client to get to know each other’s personality. Is the attorney a bulldog or a conciliator? Is the client practical or emotional? Do they get along?
As a blogging lawyer, you can help facilitate this investigation and weed out clients that are looking for a different personality just by letting your style shine through in your articles. A good blog is conversational in tone, but for many lawyers there is an urge to sound professional or aggressive, even when you are writing to an Internet audience.
But if your bark is worse than your bite, it could bring in the wrong kind of clients. Your aggressive blog will attract people looking for a fight. If in person, you prefer an easygoing approach you could find yourself wasting your time on potential clients that are looking for something you would rather not provide.
You will be far better off resisting the urge to put on a mask in your writing. Instead, write from what you know to convey your natural personality in your work. If you are a tough litigator, let your blog focus on your successes in court and your strong argument skills. If you are a laid back negotiator, focus on tactics to minimize stress in the litigation process and your ability to get the other side to compromise.
By allowing your blog to showcase your real personality you will attract clients of like minds. You will spend less time with potential clients who are mismatched to your style and spend more time building rapport with people who are more likely to sign your retainer agreement. If you need help creating a blog to feature your personality, contact blogging coach Lisa Schmidt with Legal Linguist.
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:
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.
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:
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.
If you are citing a range of statutes, repeat the “MCL” before the end of the range: MCL 769.1 through MCL 769.36.
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).
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.
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.
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.