During my time as a freshie law student, I didn’t have someone to help me prepare for law school, much less develop my writing skills. I don’t want anyone of you to be as clueless as I was back then. So, in this article, I’m going to share some tips on how to improve your writing skills for law school.
Importance of improving writing skills for law school
A lawyer’s legal work is not all hearings, court appearances, or direct/cross examinations. It requires a great deal of writing too. In fact, as most of my law professors would say, a lawyer wins half of the battle if he’s capable of composing a well-written pleading. Consequently, it is for this reason why every law student or aspiring lawyer should really work on improving writing skills for law school the soonest time possible.
10 Effective Tips on How to Improve Your Writing Skills for Law School
Most say that your training to become a lawyer starts at your first day in law school.
However, I believe you need not wait for that time to come. You can start honing, even before going to law school, all the skills you’ll need (such as writing skills) as you embark on the legal profession someday.
I have here tips and strategies to get you started with improving your writing skills. (You may also use them if you’re someone who has been writing for quite some time now yet would like to brush up on his writing skills.)
Here they are:
(1) Read more.
“Read, read, read. Read everything—trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master.”– William Faulkner
Reading does a lot to improve your writing. For one, it immerses you in different writing styles.
Next, reading demonstrates how the rules of grammar work without having to go through your English textbooks, which is often boring.
Also, it enables you to familiarize yourself with various writing styles that you can adopt for law school or any occasion.
Plus, you’ll learn new words by reading more. And in law school, it pays to know a lot of words to use in legal writing, answering exams, and graded recitations.
Finally, reading enhances your critical thinking skills, which you’ll need both in writing and studying law.
(2) Study, review, and master simple grammar rules.
Grammar makes any written work clear and readable. Thus, there’s no way you’ll confuse your readers as they go through your written work.
Also, a grammatically correct writing speaks more of credibility and reliability on the part of its author. Let’s face it, most people doubt the legitimacy of an article or blog if its filled with grammar errors.
In relation to your law school preparation, I’d say mastery of even simple grammar, such as basic rules on subject-verb agreement, allows you to communicate in law school with clarity. Consequently, you’ll be able to do good in composing well-written answers to law school essay-type exams or drafting pleadings for your legal writing class or legal apprenticeship.
(3) Write in the active voice
The use of active voice in legal writing allows any law student to compose clear, concise, and moving sentences, which he’ll need in the following:
- answering law school exams (answers are always required to be in essay form);
- legal writing class; and/or
- legal apprenticeship
If you want to refresh your memory on this topic, consider reading my short discussion on active voice vs. passive voice here.
But, before we continue on this topic, let’s get things straight first.
I’m not saying that writing in the passive voice is inappropriate or prohibited. In fact, there are certain situations that call for it.
However, in my experience, my written outputs were always straight to the point and succinct whenever I write in the active voice. Also, I noticed that my written works were clearer because my readers can identify easily the doer of the action.
And most of all, my writing had become more compelling after I embraced the active voice. The use of this voice in my sentences gave more emphasis on actions, which, in turn, gave my writing more life and power.
In sum, the use of active voice kind of adds movement and conviction to any written work. So, if this is something you haven’t done yet, consider trying this alongside the other strategies on how to improve your writing for law school, which you may find in this article.
(4) Avoid contractions
There are actually two prominent views on this matter.
The most popular view urges students to refrain from using contractions in formal writing (such as those we make or draft in law school).
Meanwhile, the other view — the more permissive one — allows us to use contractions if we would use them just the same during oral communication.
Considering these views alongside my years of experience as law student, writer, and public servant, I’m more inclined to adopt the former view.
However, I noticed that the use of contractions to demonstrate possession (e.g. the plaintiff’s witnesses) is not at all frowned upon. Actually, I’ve had several pleadings containing them that got through my supervising counsel and were eventually filed in court. But, other than those, I never dared use other contractions.
“Why is it that we shouldn’t use contractions in legal writing or in law school?”, you may probably ask.
Surprisingly, there’s no special reason behind it. It’s just that experienced writers consider them improper and have no place in formal writing.
Using them in an informal writing is a different story though. With informal writing, which one often use in making blogs or social media posts / captions, contractions are commonly acceptable.
(5) Write simply
When it comes to improving writing skills for law school, simplicity is the way to achieve the ultimate goal — clarity.
Simplicity in law school writing does not mean you should abandon the use of legalese words or legal jargons when needed. Neither does it correspond to lazy or poor writing.
Instead, simplicity in writing connotes any written work that doesn’t confuse the readers.
Contrary to what most of you might have heard of or believed in, stringing long sentences into one will not do you any good in law school. Actually, you’ll be straining your law professors when you do this. Not even the use of highfalutin or high-sounding (almost pretentious) words will help you ace your law school exams.
In law school, clear and direct-to-the-point answers and statements are preferred over taxing statements or narrations. And you can only achieve this if you will stick with simplicity.
There are many ways to write simply, which can help you prepare for law school or legal writing. You may begin by cutting out the fluff, i.e., eliminating unnecessary words from your sentences.
(6) Expand your vocabulary
Having a rich word bank is one of the ways of improving writing for law school.
For one, you’ll have more words to use for explanations or descriptions. Next, if you have strong vocabulary, it is unlikely that you will repeat certain words more than twice in a paragraph.
And finally, having rich vocabulary not only improves your writing — it likewise enhances your reading comprehension, which you’ll need to make case digests or law school essays, and in answering your law school exams.
(7) As you work on how to improve your writing skills, feel free to use online tools
The internet is a massive source of free writing-related downloadable tools, apps, or software. All you have to do is search through Google, Yahoo, or other search engines.
And the good news is most of them are free!
Here are some of my greatest finds, which I still use up to this date. These never fail to help me throughout my writing process:
(8) Have someone review your work
When we write, we have the tendency to overlook grammar mistakes or typographical errors. This is why having someone who can check your work is vital to ensure that your written work is A-okay.
That “someone” need not be your professor. It could be your close friend, your parents, or siblings. The goal here is to have second, third, fourth (and so on) look on your work.
(9) Write for an audience
You know who pushes me until now to continue stepping up my writing ?
It’s you, guys.
You see, when you know that other people will read your written work, you will be constrained to give it your best shot. And in my opinion, it’s a good thing because it motivates you to write better.
As you prepare for law school and hone your writing skills, I suggest you look for platforms that will enable you to reach out to certain types of audience through writing.
If you have the time, try blogging. You may also submit your work to online publications or write letters to the editor for your local newspaper.
If blogging or writing for publications are not your thing, you may get started by writing clear and grammatically correct social media posts and/or captions. These are not as time consuming as blogging or writing for newspapers. However, these strategies will likewise urge you to write better posts for, say, your Facebook friends or Instagram followers.
(10) Practice, practice, practice.
Constant practice transforms an amateur to a professional. I believe this is the only thing that sets us apart from the good and prolific writer and law student we’ve always wanted to become.
So, you gotta exercise those neurons and fingers of yours and start practicing now. And believe me, you’ll be surprised of your improvement along the way.
Share this article on how to improve your writing skills for law school with your friends and loved ones
So, there you have it — 10 tips to get you started and keep you going as you improve your writing skills in preparation for your law school journey.
These tips worked for me in the past. While results may vary from one person to another, I’m pretty sure that some, if not all, of these tips can get you started in improving your writing skills for law school.
Meanwhile, if you have friends who need help on their writing, but are not necessarily looking into taking up law, I believe this blog post can still be of help to them.
So, feel free to share this article with your friends and loved ones (aspiring lawyers or not) who might need a boost on their writing.
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Talk to you soon!