Lamson, Dugan and Murray, LLP, Attorneys at Law

Mark Twain Should Have Taught Legal Writing

Posted in Appellate Work, Legal Writing

I am about a month into year seven (I think) of teaching a trial class for Creighton University School of Law.  I enjoy the process but every year one of the most frustrating things for students is how long it takes to develop their case.  As with many things, there is simply no substitute for experience.  But last week I was reminded of one of my favorite quotes and shared it with the team.  

“If you want me to give you two-hour presentation, I am ready today.  If you want only a five-minute speech, it will take me two weeks to prepare.”

–Mark Twain

I used to use this quote when teaching Legal Writing.  Along with its first cousin:

“I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”

 –Mark Twain

 These can be used in many legal settings.  Good product delivered by any medium takes time.  In the legal setting most audiences (Judges, clients, jurors, colleagues, just about any audience you can conceive) want brevity.  We are taught in legal writing to use the active voice and short sentences.  The same holds true for trial work.  Get to the point.  Use words that matter.  Say what you mean.  Doing these things takes time.  While the law of diminishing returns will set in eventually, that point is often farther away than most people think.

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