Just before it was New Year’s celebration back in 2017, my TV-AV Club addict cousin forwarded nothing more than an authentic version of a WhatsApp text message wishing “Seasons Greetings!” along with an article that reflected his spurned deep love for Brian Callaghan of Montreal’s ‘chick-flick’ genre. Amongst other celebrities, Rich Fulcher in the interview said, “I thought you’d be arguing [in the law school], and then I realized you have to read all these cases, and it’s mostly writing, and then I just thought, Well, I might as well stay and get the degree.”[1] For a number of us who are on our path to dream about being a pro at legal writing, Rich Fulcher is aptly describing our spider and the web situation with the multifarious nature of returns of a good legal education.

Law school is not only about moots or debates, though a large part of it is genuinely composed of the two, but also a thorough practice of the art of legal writing is equally significant in the cognitive development of any law student. I have often come across several professors and distinguished lawyers who have concluded that a prerequisite exists to those who enter law school, which is to be fluent at writing and expression. Along with the same, Law school plays a crucial role in shaping one’s reasoning and writing that its students are able to express in an articulate manner. Hence, I have thought of agreeing to contribute my absolutely free gibberish to a thread of blogposts on Mag’s (Magazine Committee) series on ‘Legal Writing’.

First Tip: There is no better way of writing than to read daily. Fixing a time to read is better than nothing. That could be when you wake up from bed with Bar and Bench[2] updates or any other time which is convenient to you but only reading can make your legal writing more structured. The content you read finds its reflections in the way you write. One’s reasoning is stronger when one reads more of argumentative articles or books which may tell you how to prove a proposition.

Second Tip: The pejorative sense of addressing this question of “What do we Read?” would be to simply go and read irrelevant magazines which may make no new addition to your legal writing. It is essential that you are able to select for yourself the content that you want to develop a career in or want to preferably know more to be able to develop a keen interest on the same for publishing a research paper later in time. For example: If you are keen to study taxation laws then you should make it a point to follow up with blogs that have frequent posts on the new developments in the field or if you like to read on International Law then you read posts at EJIL-talk[3] and also read the basics of international law (say Malcolm Shaw or Sir Ian Brownlie) in order to understand the broad base of the arguments made in these posts.

Third Tip: According to many law professors, reading like a lawyer is the biggest hurdle for most students.[4] One often requires hours to read a case which is only a few pages in the wee years at law school. The good news is that the more you read, the better you get at understanding all the legal language, and the better equipped you’ll be when the time comes to do your own writing.[5] I can suggest you to take up reading Glanville William’s ‘Learning the Law’[6] and thereafter shift to Frederick Schauer’s ‘Thinking Like a Lawyer: A New Introduction to Legal Reasoning’[7] if you are looking seriously to write or edit articles in future.

Fourth Tip: Skill sets give you the power to organize and bifurcate things. Suppose when you read a contract three years later from today, you would definitely know as a lawyer where to look for the Disputes Resolution Clause and where to look for the Representations and Warranties. Developing this skill set takes time and no one denies that it is a lot of time required for the same. What one could do is learn from their seniors in the profession or at law school on how they segregate and organize information. Accordingly, the senior lawyers that you see at the Bombay High Court have all mastered this art to now be in a position to so quickly be able to get ready to argue an entire case before the court. You should use the chambers and law firms that you intern at, to be more vigilant with the stage of the matter before the court and accordingly read the case papers such that you are able to arrange time for yourself to be prepared with the rest of the matters for the day. Let me give you an example wherein the court has fixed your matter for checking service then you do not read all the papers of the matter but only the Affidavit of service.[8] This affidavit that you have filed before the court will inform you sufficiently about the parties upon which the legal papers have been served and the status of such service. Therefore, this is not a day for arguments or hearing and hence, you can spend your time enjoying the new cheese cake below your office than to read papers which may be of no use during the court proceedings, the very next day.

Fifth Tip: After understanding that a law student should be able to only imbibe the relevant portions of her source of information, one now needs to slowly develop on note-taking.

Note-taking introduces one to the old saying – Brevity is the soul of the wit. It is important that you are able to pick on the crux of the matter and make notes on the same. Every time you read for writing an essay or a paper, it is better that you make a brief note on the same and why it appears to be important to you at the time of reading it. It once happened to me that the person who took my notes replied back that he could understand everything in just a minute and returned it back to me and that is when I realized that my note-taking process is erroneous. There exists a difference between transcribing and writing. One needs to write down the crux of the issue addressed than transcribing every word uttered during a lecture. Using abbreviations is a good sub-tip to quicken your note-taking pace.

Sixth and Last tip: How much to write? Text lengths determine the impact you make on your reader’s screen. Accordingly studies[9] show that the average length of a newspaper article which is able to hold on to the readers’ interest depends on the subject of the article for its readers’ behaviour varies in the same light. I am writing a blogpost and studies find that 1600 words is an ideal limit for blogpost readers’ attention while the ideal limit suggested out of such studies on the blogpost title found that it should be around nothing more than 6 words.

Accordingly, I suggest that you make small efforts first and start writing for a blog or two and increase your reading in the meanwhile. Follow up on important Supreme Court and High Court matters which will eventually provide you the subject to write upon. The next step could be to write legal essays or you could also write for your college magazine blog because it reflects the discussion of the academia and the academic discussion at your institution. Eventually through this process, you are building the blocks to attempt to write a legal research paper in future.

The next post in the series is about your difficulties on legal research.

See you soon!

-Avirup Mandal, V-V

[1]https://tv.avclub.com/let-s-remember-all-of-2016-s-12th-questions-1798255834?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=feeds&/setsession

[2] https://www.barandbench.com/

[3]https://www.ejiltalk.org/

[4]https://wordcounter.net/blog/2016/06/06/101700_how-much-writing-law-school.html

[5]Ibid

[6] William Glanville, Learning the Law, 1969 ed., Sweet and Maxwell

[7] Schauer Frederick, Thinking Like a Lawyer: A New Introduction to Legal Reasoning, 2009 ed., Harvard University Press

[8] An Affidavit of Service – also known as a Proof of Service – is an important document provided by process servers after they have successfully served documents to someone. This affidavit is a notarized testimony signed by the server that details the time, date, manner of service, identity of the person served and other details of the job. If a party in the case claims to not have been notified of pending legal action, the Affidavit of Service can be presented to prove otherwise. (See https://www.serve-now.com/articles/133/affidavit-of-service)

[9]https://wordcounter.net/blog/2017/11/24/103182_the-ideal-length-of-everything-you-write-online-infographic.html