A recent article from the Chicago Lawyer Magazine highlights the value of legal writing in law practice and the changing needs in law practice from trial-oriented to disposition-oriented. The article discusses the growing need for skilled legal writers as more and more cases are settled by way of written products (i.e., motions and briefs), rather than in court lawyering (i.e., oral arguments or jury trials).
Everyone in practice knows that more cases settle than go to trial. More and more, these settlements are based on the strength of motions (i.e., effective legal writing). Because the high costs of litigation disincentives going all the way to jury trial, effective legal writing is more critical than ever.
In appellate practice, the appellate courts rely more on well written briefs (the parties’ written appeals to the courts for you non-lawyers out there) to decide the case than the parties’ oral arguments. In fact, more appellate courts are moving towards deciding cases WITHOUT oral argument and ONLY on the written briefs.
In this article, judges recommend that attorneys summarize their case right away and make sure the summary includes the most important points. Judges want a well-organized written product that presents the controlling authority and applies it to the factual situation concisely without inflamatory language or derrogatory comments about the opposing party. The judges even discussed the importance of writing in the active, rather than the passive, voice to clearly communicate.