Legal Writing For Paralegals

Chris J. Hardin
April 19, 2011 — 939 views  
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The goal of legal writing for paralegals is to communicate. The style of the communication may be informative or it may be persuasive. No matter what style or form legal writing takes, its mechanics must be correct. Failure to use good grammar results in cloudy and incomprehensible writing. Incorrect spelling casts doubt on your skill and credibility. Improper punctuation results in an unclear project. Once you have mastered the mechanics of writing paralegals must focus on making the writing effective.

While television and movies would have you believe that lawyers spend all day arguing interesting and exciting cases in court, the truth is that much of a lawyer's time is spent writing. Lawyers often rely on paralegals to assist in the writing process and often delegate an entire writing task to paralegals.

Paralegals often write correspondence to other attorneys or parties or clients in each case. Always write your letter with its intended audience in mind and clearly understand your goals in sending the letter. This will help achieve the correct style and tone.

Writing is easiest if you organize your thoughts before you start. Here is a successful approach to organizing legal writing, which applies to a broad spectrum of applications, from basic correspondence to intricate legal memorandum.

1. Write down every idea you have on your subject, even fleeting thoughts, and in no particular order.

2. Write an introduction paragraph. You will probably rewrite it several times, even after you have completed the assignment. The purpose in writing the lead is to start you thinking about how you are going to organize what you have to say.

3. With your list of ideas and your lead paragraph, write a simple outline, checking off points from your idea list as you write. When your outline is finished, you'll discover there are gaps in your list of ideas. These are the holes this method is designed to expose.

4. Now you are ready to write. You may think of new ideas to include, and because you have an outline, these additions need not crowd out the main points.

5. Let your organization show. Let your reader understand that you know where you are, where you are going, and what conclusions you have drawn.

6. Rewrite. If you are typing directly into your computer, you have help. By using your spell check, thesaurus, or grammar check, you and enhance your writing quickly and easily.

7. All written material subject to approval by a supervising attorney should be double-spaced, marked "draft," and should be submitted to your supervisor for review. Maintain all drafts for your records.

8. Reread the final version with a fresh look to see if there is anything you missed. Make sure copies are sent to the designated recipients, and without fail, file a copy of the final draft.

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Chris J. Hardin