July 23, 2014

The 12 Rules of Client Service...

...are right here. Revel in their wisdom. Ignore them at your peril. Teach them to your coworkers.

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Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 12:00 AM | Comments (0)

July 18, 2014

Hermann Hesse: Joking with the Immortals.

Eternity is a mere moment--just long enough for a joke.

--Hermann Hesse's version of Goethe, dead, possessed of a superior perspective, and speaking to Harry Haller, in Steppenwolf (1927).

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Posted by JD Hull at 03:59 AM | Comments (0)

July 16, 2014

Alexandria: Best 'Hood in Northern Virginia.

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Posted by JD Hull at 11:33 AM | Comments (0)

July 11, 2014

H.G. Wells: Editors.

No passion in the world is equal to the passion to alter someone else's draft.

--H.G. Wells (1866-1946)

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Herbert George Wells in 1908

Posted by JD Hull at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

June 04, 2014

Blaise Pascal: On Brevity.

I have made this letter longer--because I have not had the time to make it shorter.

--Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), mathematician, physicist, philosopher, in "Lettres Provinciales", No. 16, 1657

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Posted by JD Hull at 12:00 AM | Comments (0)

June 02, 2014

Writing Well: Consistency.

You and your firm are judged by every piece of writing that goes out the door.

--A wise person, possibly Dan White, lawyer-writer-humorist

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Henry Miller, American writer (1891-1980)

Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 11:36 PM | Comments (0)

May 12, 2014

Jack London on Inspiration.

You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.

--Jack London (1876-1916)

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John Griffith "Jack" London in 1905

Posted by JD Hull at 12:59 AM | Comments (0)

May 10, 2014

John Irving on Writing Well.

Half my life is an act of revision.

--John Irving (1942-)

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Posted by JD Hull at 01:14 PM | Comments (0)

May 03, 2014

Elmore Leonard: Just Say It.

I try to leave out the parts that people skip.

--Elmore Leonard (1925-2013)

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Posted by JD Hull at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

April 27, 2014

Some days, Jack Kerouac got it right.

Still poetry month, right?

Kerouac is not my favorite wordsmith--but sometimes he got the thrill and promise of simply being alive pitch perfect.

The famous "mad to be saved" passage happens early on, in the first chapter On The Road.

...the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.

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Posted by JD Hull at 03:55 PM | Comments (0)

April 24, 2014

Ben Disraeli on Bad Books.

Books are fatal: they are the curse of the human race. Nine-tenths of existing books are nonsense, and the clever books are the refutation of that nonsense.

--Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881)

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"Dizzy"

Posted by JD Hull at 12:19 AM | Comments (0)

April 11, 2014

James Michener: On Rewriting.

I'm not a very good writer--but I'm an excellent rewriter.

--James A. Michener, 1907-1997

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Michener, April 1951, Nina Leen (Life Magazine)

Posted by JD Hull at 01:59 AM | Comments (0)

March 20, 2014

Living Well: Samuel Johnson on John Dryden.

The effects of a vigorous genius working upon large materials.

--Samuel Johnson, commenting on the life work of John Dryden (1631-1700), English poet, critic and playwright.


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From The Indian Emperour

Posted by JD Hull at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

March 14, 2014

Wordsworth on Writing, Working, Lawyering.


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Writing--any kind of writing--is hard work. The most inspired "work moments" I've had are in this category: watching someone struggle with getting to the right word or phrase under pressure and when they are tired. The first time I saw it was watching a college daily editor--my roommate both in college and in DC for a while--struggle at 4:00 AM over a few words in the final sentences of a student reporter's story covering a public figure's on-campus speech.

He was also a student stringer for a well-known newspaper, and knew his bosses far away would see his article on the event. He had already phoned in the facts to an editor in Manhattan--and he had been careful to get those facts right.

The public figure had screwed the pooch; he had said some goofy and impolitic things that, given his government job, he should not have said, or said differently. The event was likely to draw attention from mainstream media around the country the next day.

And that happened. My friend, of course, couldn't have fully known in advance of any storms his piece might cause; I really doubt that would have mattered in his effort.

He still deeply cared, at four in the morning, about the writing--which was "good enough, but not quite there yet"--and it moved me.

Getting it right under pressure was--and still is--Steve's life. He later worked as a reporter for two national newspapers, and wrote a best selling and well-regarded book on international trade.

Writing, any kind of writing, is hard work--especially hard for those who are good at it, or even just care about it.

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Wordworth's Muse: In the Lake District, you might hear "ghostly language of the ancient earth".

Even if you can't be perfect, and often you can't, please put your heart into it. Half-assed writing in any genre and in any profession--letters, reports, summaries, briefs, memos, anything written--means (1) you don't care, (2) you don't believe it and (3) I shouldn't read it--especially if I am a client, boss, judge or other "editor".

Typos? Missing words? Bad documentation/citation? Horrible grammar? Long rambling inefficient sentences that tragically hide great ideas and points? Not getting to the point early enough? Lazy writing?

It means you're either in deep personal crisis and should have someone else do it or--and much worse--you really hate what you are doing. You're telling me, the reader, "screw you, Jack". The former? You can always get back in the saddle. The latter? Time to get a new gig, don't you think?

*William Wordsworth

Posted by JD Hull at 10:00 AM | Comments (0)

March 10, 2014

John Irving: Writing Well.

Half my life is an act of revision.

--John Irving (1942-)

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Posted by JD Hull at 10:46 AM | Comments (0)

February 22, 2014

Kundera on Women.

An older woman is a jewel in the life of a man.

--Milan Kundera (1929- ) in "Immortality", 1990

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One critic: The book will make you "maybe even a better lover".

Posted by JD Hull at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

Flaubert on Standards.

I am irritated by my own writing. I am like a violinist whose ear is true, but whose fingers refuse to reproduce precisely the sound he hears within.

--Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880)

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Posted by JD Hull at 03:59 AM | Comments (0)

February 19, 2014

Raymond Ward: On Client-Centered Writing. And Vampires.

The Net, unfortunately, is mainly about what's trendy and hot. Most blog posts, like old newspapers, are dated within 24 hours of publication. But a few have an enduring, evergreen quality. Do take a look at this post by Adams and Reese's Raymond Ward called "The Vampires of Legal Writing" at his the (new) legal writer. Ray notes that over-reliance on legal forms and other stock language "tends to perpetuate bad legal writing."

The problem really isn’t with forms themselves. A good set of forms, properly used, can save time and serve as helpful guides. The problems arise with what contract-drafting guru Ken Adams calls “uncritical regurgitation”—the slavish adherence to poor or obsolete forms. Here are some tips for reaping the benefits of forms while avoiding the problems that over-reliance on them can cause.

Read Ray's four tips in his post. And we would emphasize that forms, even when they are not obsolete, can cause nightmares via their boilerplate alone. In both transactional work and litigation (especially discovery), lawyers often rely on and use stock provisions and language that are either inappropriate or just plain wrong for the matter at hand. Forms are a doorway to stale thinking and even non-thinking. In fact, they can be dangerous. If you're in doubt about the form you are using, don't use it. Toss it--and just rely on your brain.

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Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 12:59 AM | Comments (0)

February 13, 2014

Storytelling.

Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.

--Anton Chekhov (1860-1904)

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Posted by JD Hull at 12:31 AM | Comments (0)

February 11, 2014

To Woody Allen: "Never write a letter, never throw one away."

On Sunday, in response to his adoptive daughter Dylan Farrow's allegations of sexual abuse by him when she was seven years old, Woody Allen published in the New York Times an open letter that certainly no publicist, lawyer or sane human being would have advised him to send. See, e.g., in yesterday's Vanity Fair "Prosecutor from Dylan Farrow’s Sexual-Assault-Claim Case “Outraged” by Woody Allen’s Open Letter, Considering Legal Action" and the article's accompanying links. Next time, Woodman, bite your tongue.

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Allan Stewart Konigsberg in 2006

Posted by JD Hull at 02:48 PM | Comments (0)

January 24, 2014

Heroes: Ben Disraeli on Books.

Books are fatal: they are the curse of the human race. Nine-tenths of existing books are nonsense, and the clever books are the refutation of that nonsense.

--Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881)

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"Dizzy"

Posted by JD Hull at 06:19 AM | Comments (0)

December 04, 2013

Writing Well: Jack London on Inspiration.

You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.

--Jack London (1876-1916)

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Posted by JD Hull at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

November 19, 2013

Writing Well: The Editor

I have performed the necessary butchery. Here is the bleeding corpse.

--Henry James (1843-1916), after a request by the Times Literary Supplement to cut 3 lines from a 5,000 word article.

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Posted by JD Hull at 12:00 AM | Comments (0)

November 15, 2013

James Baldwin: "Tell Me How Long The Train's Been Gone."

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An essayist at heart, American novelist, poet and playwright James Baldwin (1924-1987) wrote his experimental fourth novel about the life of Leo Proudhammer, a black stage actor raised in Harlem who moves to Greenwich Village. Proudhammer has a heart attack on stage. Published in 1968, and panned by critics but widely read, "Tell Me How Long The Train's Been Gone" is an incredibly intense coming of age story set the 1930s and 1940s about racial prejudice, the American experiment, family, faith and sexuality.

Posted by JD Hull at 10:48 PM | Comments (0)

November 06, 2013

Standards: Flaubert on his writing.

I am irritated by my own writing. I am like a violinist whose ear is true, but whose fingers refuse to reproduce precisely the sound he hears within.

--Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880)

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Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 12:59 AM | Comments (0)

October 24, 2013

Revisited: The Law of Thank-You Notes.

Break the rules at your peril. People will say mean things about your dog, your wife, your girlfriend, or all three.

In case your Mother or Governess never told you, you're from Utah, or you were stoned all seven years at Choate, let us remind you to never thank anyone for something truly important--a meeting, referral or a dinner--with anything but a prompt handwritten thank-you note. No valid excuses exist for not doing it. Too few of us practice gratitude--in either business or our "other" lives--enough. Some say the practice of saying thanks is good for the soul. Others swear it's good for revenues, too.

Many, many business people and some lawyers with the highest standards taste (i.e., wear socks to meetings or court) think that no written thank-you note means no class--as harsh and low-tech as that may sound.

Typed is okay--but handwritten is better. Even if you are not convinced that thank-you notes are noticed and appreciated (they are), pretend that we know more than you (we do), and do it anyway (thank us later).

Good stationery. We suggest Crane's on the lower end, or something better, like stationery from Tiffany's, or a Tiffany-style knock-off, on the higher end. A "studio card", maybe. Just make it plain. Simple. Initials on it at most.

If you get personalized stuff, have a return envelope address to a home or business--but without the business mentioned. It's personal. Leave Acme Law Firm off it.

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If you get mentioned or "linked-to" on the Internet? However, "electronic thank-yous" by e-mails to express thanks for links, comments or mentions in posts or articles on the Internet--i.e., three different people link to your blog every day, you are working full time for clients, busy firing looter-style staff and associates, and writing op-ed pieces entitled "Summer 2012: The Mood of the Midwest"--are totally okay.

Short, sweet, and press "send".

Blogging about you or your ideas is, of course, very nice--but it's not like they bought you dinner, or invited you up to Newport for the weekend. Besides, you'll always miss a few kudos thrown at you in the digital ether.

But what if you are trashed in the ether? A "reverse" thank-you? Sure, you may be insulted, purposely mis-paraphrased, misinterpreted, or just inadvertently misquoted. It happens. Remember, some bloggers and pseudo-journalists are (1) angry, (2) disorganized, or (3) essentially unemployed. And there are often good reasons for all three. Three approaches:

First, ignore them. Who cares? You are busy.Second, if you are dissed or insulted in cyberspace, and you are in the right mood, respond smartly with: "Wendell, Dude, if I were you--or someone remotely like you--I would not like me either."

Finally, and third, study the techniques of our friend Redford, a full-time trial lawyer and widely-read blogger who manages to juggle, keep at bay and often humiliate legions of aggressive and often anonymous fire-breathing "experts" without breaking a sweat.

Anyway, let's get back to manners. If you don't regularly thank people for links or mentions of you or your firm's blog or website, you are fouling your own nest.

Not thanking people in the blogosphere is (1) arrogant and (2) dumb. It adds to the notion that (3) bloggers are insular, passive-aggressive lightweights lacking in people skills.

So develop some habits about all thank-yous for everything--and make handwritten the default position. If you don't, bad things will happen:

1. No one will give you any more business, or invite you to The Hamptons.

2. People will say mean things about your dog, your wife, your girlfriend, or about all three. Worse, they trash you.

3. If you went to Brown, snide people will remind you and your friends that Brown used to be the safety school for the Ivies.

4. If you were at Duke, they'll re-float the completely untrue story that Duke exists only because Princeton had too much honor and class to accept Buck Duke's filthy tobacco money and re-name Princeton Duke.

5. If Princeton, they'll just say you were always kind of light in the Cole Haans, too, and were once even seen dancing at an "alternative lifestyle" bar in the city--dressed in full leather biker garb--so what can you expect?

You get the idea. So thank people in writing. Handwritten as a general rule. E-mail only for a cyber-mention.

Finally, if your site is so successful that your links, e-mails and comments are through the roof, hire someone else to do the thank-yous--written or electronic--for you.

(from previous H. Oliver-D. Hull posts at WAC?)

Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

October 15, 2013

Lawyers Writing Sanely and Well: When?

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"Pompous Bastard" by Tannermorrow

Ironically, few lawyers write well.

Many of us aren't even aware of that. Good clients and the general public are justified in beginning to conclude that either we won't or can't write sanely and well. At WAC/P?, over the years, we've discussed that problem a lot--but maybe not enough--at our section called Writing Well.

We've never demanded perfection. We have suggested the importance of, well, a modicum of Self-Respect. Of Simplicity. And of Non-Silliness.

You do need to work at it. Good writing, like good lawyering, is not easy.

When most of us write, we meander, repeat, confuse, use too many words, are awash in jargon, are lazy, and use the wrong words; in the end, we sound like self-important mental patients rocking back and forth and talking to ourselves. Useful and even brilliant legal thinking and insights get lost.

Read lawyer letters to counsel or clients if you don't believe me. At best, most of them are entertaining (and full-of-it). Or, for fun, just read our pleadings:

COMES NOW, the Plaintiff, GiantMart Inc., by and through its attorneys, Adams, Bones & Carson, LLC, brings this cause of action against Upstart Ltd, Scumbag Defendant, for violations of the Lanham Act, and for other causes of action, which are set forth in their entirety below, and files with this Honorable Court the herein Complaint, the following of which is a statement of its averments and allegations, oye oye [above with names changed to protect the lame, and one embellishment]:

rather than

Plaintiff GiantMart Inc. states:

Posted by JD Hull at 12:09 AM | Comments (0)

October 13, 2013

Disraeli: On Writing Well.

When I want to read a good book, I write one.

--Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881)

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Posted by JD Hull at 04:13 AM | Comments (0)

September 20, 2013

The War Against Legal-Speak.

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Sir John Popham (1531–1607) was an MP, Speaker of the House of Commons, and Lord Chief Justice of England. We think he would speak and write differently if he were alive today.

Lawyer-Speak and Legalese. Of the lamer lawyer-centric institutions, only "Professionalism" and "Work-Life Balance" are more embarrassing, abused and irrelevant, and more likely to undermine clients, than the way in which many lawyers continue to speak and write. At least those two prissy battle cries originally had a point. But Legalese never had a point.

A few years ago, a law firm sent us a draft of a simple housekeeping agreement. It was a 3-page confidentiality agreement used during talks for an acquisition. We responded by submitting our own draft because, among other things, the draft we had received (presumably a "model" they had around their office) contained this language:

"Effective on even date herewith, the parties hereto hereby agree to...".

Whoa. How about just one date at the top or bottom of the Agreement and then say "The parties agree..."? And if the whole thing is an "Agreement", with language showing that the parties intend to be bound, maybe you don't even need that?

Either would save trees, ink and space, and would get the idea of contract across, and out of the way. And either would help diminish the image of the self-important "I'm-special" lawyer rocking back and forth in his chair, and talking to himself like a mental patient.

(from past WAC? posts)

Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

September 05, 2013

1922: James Joyce gets crazy with Hemingway.

Joyce said to me he was afraid his writing was too suburban and that maybe he should get around a bit and see the world. He was afraid of some things, lightning and things, but a wonderful man. He was under great discipline--his wife, his work and his bad eyes.

His wife [Nora, the model for Molly Bloom in Ulysses] was there and she said, yes, his work was too suburban--'Jim could do with a spot of that lion hunting.' We would go out to drink and Joyce would fall into a fight. He couldn't even see the man so he'd say, 'Deal with him, Hemingway! Deal with him!'

--Ernest Hemingway, as reported by Time July 7, 1999

Posted by JD Hull at 12:59 AM | Comments (0)

September 02, 2013

Down in Monterey.


Posted by JD Hull at 12:06 AM | Comments (0)

August 19, 2013

Best Books on Lawyering: Mark Herrmann's "The Curmudgeon's Guide to Practicing Law".

When you finally do take a deposition, I want you to remember two things...

--Mark Herrmann, page 59, Chapter 6: "Seven Hours Locked in a Room."

A few years ago, while I was preparing for a two-week jury trial we defended, one before a very new but skillful federal judge that turned out to be a lively three-week proceeding with a manic post-trial motion phase, Mark Herrmann was kind enough to send me a copy of his The Curmudgeon's Guide to Practicing Law (American Bar Association, Section of Litigation, 2006). I am looking at the title page right now: "For Dan Hull, Mark Herrmann, August 2009". So I sent Mark a thank-you note and put his already well-received book aside. Duty called, witnesses flew in and the trial process went on that special bender of its own.

Finally, three years later, I read it, and I wish I had read it before. More than anything, I wish I had given the book to two talented young lawyers who had assisted us and who, in my judgment, were clearly not having enough fun with the sudden turns, surprises and yeoman demands of the trial process during that September of 2009.

If you're a associate doing relatively complex corporate work--especially a young litigator in years 1 through 4 who is trying to master the Miracle and Holy Surprise of nonmovant's Rule 56(d), or just trying understand the differences between Rules 30, 34 and 45 without pulling a hamstring--do buy and read The Curmudgeon's Guide. Like today. Please do it.

Part-survival guide, part-The Art of War for the eager-smart but painfully clueless, it is as good a book on practicing law in many respects as Jim Freund's classic Lawyering: A Realistic Approach to Legal Practice, published nearly thirty years before but which (like Freund himself) is more deal and transactions-oriented. I could pay Mark and his book no greater compliment. And for a young fire-breathing corporate "trial lawyer"--yes, they still have those in both boutique and larger firms--Mark's 135-page straight-talking volume is a better investment of time than anything I have read. For litigators, it is simply the best. The Curmudgeon's Guide is also a no-nonsense primer on the Art of the Client and Customer.

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Posted by JD Hull at 10:19 PM | Comments (0)

December 09, 2012

Dylan Thomas reading Fern Hill: "Now as I was young and easy..."

Dylan Thomas (d. 1953) reads Fern Hill: "Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs...." His voice--those Welsh pipes--was also one of his many gifts. What a talent. A sad early death in Manhattan/So far away from his heart.

Posted by JD Hull at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

November 26, 2012

Evan Schaeffer's "How to Feed a Lawyer": The Perfect Gift for Lawyers, Clients and Actual Humans.

Trial lawyer, writer and Blawg Father Evan Schaeffer has a few secrets for us. Do buy and begin to read--as I am doing--his new book "How to Feed a Lawyer--and Other Irreverent Observations from the Legal Underground".

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Posted by JD Hull at 10:25 AM | Comments (0)

November 23, 2012

Best Books on Lawyering: James McElhaney's Trial Notebook (4th Ed. 2005).

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Posted by JD Hull at 12:45 AM | Comments (0)

September 08, 2012

Emily Dickinson's pal Kate.

Emily Dickinson (below left), the Belle of Amherst, may or may not have been a recluse but she was certainly a poetic genius with a still-unmatched ear for phrasing and the play of words. And her friend Kate Scott Turner (below right) may or may not have been a Straight-Up Total Betty but she was compelling and had very interesting if haunting features (her mouth, her eyes). Got more pictures of Kate, anyone? We've got Emily's poems. See the AP story "Scholars may have second photo of poet Emily Dickinson".

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(Photo: AP)

Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 01:30 AM | Comments (0)

August 24, 2012

What I Am Reading When I Should Be Working: London, The Novel, By Edward Rutherfurd.

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2,075 years of greatest commercial hub in history.
Crown Publishers, Inc., New York. 1998. 830 pages.

Posted by JD Hull at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

July 09, 2012

Got Proofreading?

Proofreading errors are avoidable, even under the gun--if you make ardor in proofreading a habit.

Take invoices to clients. Invoices, if done correctly, are a great way to communicate what you've done for a client and they can even serve as a marketing tool. They are a genre of documents we all need to get right. Clients can always be expected to read them. So they need to be really "right", right?

Lawyers don't talk about proofreading enough. It amazes us that badly proofread pleadings and letters still emanate from some of the best American and European law firms. It mars and even desecrates otherwise good and sometimes brilliant work.

Mistakes will happen in law practice in any event--but the idea is to minimize them, and especially those you can control. Proofreading errors are very avoidable, even under the gun, if you make ardor in doing it a habit. Our recurring nightmare is that the GC of a great client says:

"Dan, if at $___ an hour you guys can't spell [or write], believe me, we can find a law firm tomorrow morning that can."


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The Holy Surprise of Great Habits. Above: New recruits at Hull McGuire celebrate getting their "Careful Thing" on.

For that reason, as mentioned in a 2005 WAC? "Just Say It--Part 4" post on writing for lawyers, Rule 5 (of 8) in the good writing section of our firm's Practice Guide is:

5. Proofread, proofread, proofread. Pretend that, for every typo you miss or grammatical error you make, you have to buy Dan Hull as many beers as he could drink in one evening in his late twenties on St. Patrick's Day in the most expensive Capitol Hill watering hole he and his friends could find.

(At our firm, we have a written policy on proofreading that employees must actually sign before they start work.)

Together with thinking and writing simply and clearly, there's not a more important habit for a lawyer to develop. Misspellings, omitted or misplaced words and off-the-charts bad grammar are often important errors which blot out otherwise good work--and ones we can control.

It's that hard--and that simple.

Image: M. Judge, Viacom/MTV

Posted by JD Hull at 03:41 PM | Comments (0)

June 16, 2012

It's Bloomsday. The day you meet your wife can be its own world.

The day you meet your wife can be its own world.

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Above: James Joyce and Sylvia Beach.

Posted by JD Hull at 11:40 PM | Comments (0)

April 23, 2012

Blawg Review #318: Fully-Engaged, Participatory, Risk-Taking, Pro-Immersion, Get-Off-Your-Knees, Change-the-World Will Shakespeare-Hunter Thompson Edition.

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HORATIO
O day and night, but this is wondrous strange!

HAMLET
And therefore as a stranger give it welcome.
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

Hamlet, Act 1. Scene V.
William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

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"Maybe there is no Heaven."
Generation of Swine: Tales of Shame & Degradation in the '80's.
Hunter Stockton Thompson (1937-2005)

And Heaven on Earth? That's up to us, right?

Welcome to Blawg Review No. 318, which follows Texas trial lawyer Mark Bennett's inspiring No. 317 at the well-regarded Defending People. My name is Dan Hull. I practice law to (1) make money, (2) ensure that every day will be different than the one before, (3) use everything I have practicing law so I can feel alive, (4) serve sophisticated purchasers of legal services who "get it"--corporate clients with in-house counsel normally represented by much larger firms--and put them first, and (5) treat my law practice and firm as both a shop and a laboratory for new ideas.

"Immersion" is what I seek in life and work. So that my life is full, and full of surprise. For me, this is exactly what William Shakespeare (or whoever authored the works bearing his name) and Hunter Thompson had in common. It is the gift, and courage, to get us to fully participate in the story along with its creator. The Singer, if you will, becomes the Song.

April of course is National Poetry Month. Today, April 23, is the day on which William Shakespeare was very likely born and also (strange as it seems) most definitely the day on which he also died. Happy 448th Birthday, Sir--and thank you. In your plays, characters, story and theme strut, bellow, work, play, dart and dive in and out together with all the surprise and verve of real life. As in Thompson's work generations later, you are always "there". With us. In fact, the sense of writer participation in the work of both Shakespeare and Thompson shoots through each line. In Thompson's case--"as your attorney, I advise you to take a hit out of the little brown bottle in my shaving kit"--writer involvement is impossible to ignore as he throws himself into the narrative. The capacity for detachment, while occasionally important and present in the works of both, is just one tool in the arsenal of storytelling. These two authors are fully-engaged. In the story. With us. Now. Immersed.

I want to be that kind of lawyer, too.

Six years ago, in Blawg Review #43, Boston's Diane Levin gave us a fine Shakespeare edition which celebrates a man whose 38 plays, 154 sonnets and other poems changed the English tongue forever and made it work harder, bend more, stretch mightily and finally give England a language that could keep up with its cascading, unrelenting and wonderfully vibrant and ancient imagination. He used words, made new words and experimented with word-combinations so that both the writing and the author were fully-engaged, participating, immersed in the story, risk-taking. It was not like anything that had gone before it. Read, for example, the entire Hamlet scene above.

Hunter Thompson--I have inadvertently channeled this journalist for nearly three decades since I covered for a college daily an infamous speech he gave--took participatory one step further in his feisty-funny yet oddly clear-eyed new journalism. But, for his time, William Shakespeare's body of work revolutionized what the English language could do. Changed forever how we saw ourselves. His work demonstrated in and of itself what humans could do to change the world. Simply put, Shakespeare, like Geoffrey Chaucer before him, made English cool. Very cool.

And all of you? I hope all of you will do the same thing with your law practice--and with the entire law profession itself. Please push the envelope a bit for us all.

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But first things first, as they told me when I exited my Final LL.M Program. Shakespeare's Works? Who wrote them? Francis Bacon or Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, are my two personal favorites for the honor. Perhaps a number of people or a combination wrote them. But not Shakespeare. The chances that the historical person, a well-meaning actor-bumpkin from Stratford named William Shakespeare, wrote all these assorted, richly-layered erudite and intricate gems in a working life in which he retired at 49 is about as likely as learning in a few years that Billy Carter, Jimmy's brother, invented the Internet, thought up Twitter, and did both theoretical and initial lab work resulting in three Nobel Prizes in Physics over a 20-year period. Or, staying with rogue presidential brothers, that Roger Clinton brokered several Middle Eastern cease fires, engineered Procter & Gamble's Gillette acquisition, and still had time to join the special forces, get buff and shoot Osama bin Laden.

If he were living today, Will Shakespeare would reside as a community theater local "star" amongst my many cousins in eastern Tennessee in a house with a front porch decorated by all-year-long Christmas tree lights and featuring a really big Coke Machine. My childhood friend Ernie from Glen Burnie, who has an English degree from Yale, and is now a partner and trial lawyer in a well-known DC-based law firm, dismisses the historical Will Shakespeare more comprehensively, if crudely: "Kind of guy who'd try to blow himself with a Dust Buster, if you ask me." Note: Just heard that Ernie lost his slot again at The University Club.

So Shakespeare couldn't have written "Shakespeare". But Someone Cool, Brave and Hard-Working did--and he, she or it changed Everything: character, story, our sense of an inner life, consciousness itself, words--and how they could sing.

So let's celebrate those who do things, whoever they are, famous or unsung, and especially those who do great things. Which are almost always difficult, frustrating things. A gentleman from South Carolina, trial lawyer Bobby G. Frederick, reminds us at Trial Theory that today is also the 112th anniversary of Teddy Roosevelt's "Citizenship In A Republic" speech delivered at the Sorbonne, Paris, France, 23 April, 1910. It is an Ode to Quality long-loved by hard-working full-time lawyers worldwide. Excerpt:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

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You get the idea. This Edition of Blawg Review for lawyers who get up and do it every day. Let's start with three "non-virtual" friends of mine. Patrick Lamb, the Chicago business trial lawyer and law firm innovator who got me interested in blogging back in 2005, is a "trench lawyer" if there ever was one. We share similar career paths and a real drive to build a completely new kind of law firm for higher-end clients. I've spent more time personally with Pat than any other lawyer who writes. For several years, and directly due to our connection through blogging, our respective law firms were main drivers together in the same invitation-only international business law consortium based in Austria. We are still members together of a second invitation-only group based in Charleston. We've served on each other's panels on the subjects of higher-end customer service, law practice, and litigation. Pat has great business sense (rare in lawyers) and a fabulous legal mind. See his commentary in "WSJ on ever increasing hourly rate: anyone else get a sense of deja vu?" at his always-provocative In Search of Perfect Client Service. He is one of a handful of people who is changing our profession.

Brit pundit, law professor and velvet-voiced Charon QC, another innovator and doer I met in London in 2007, is one of the funniest and most erudite human beings alive, in or out of the law. If Pat Lamb got me writing again, Charon kept me doing it because he always made blogging, well, great fun. And there were all these great young female "assistants" around him when we met in Mayfair. Anyway, a useful and serious guest post on the UK Facebook litigation by Stephens Scowns Solicitors comes our way in "Careless talk costs jobs". The UK now has 30 million Facebook users. In Preece v. Wetherspoon, an employment tribunal held that a pub manager was fairly dismissed for gross misconduct after she used Facebook during working time to make comments about two difficult customers. You say you had your privacy settings on? Sorry, Sweetie, not a defense. It's still public domain.

The ultimate New York City trench lawyer, and non-virtual friend, is criminal defense lawyer Scott Greenfield at Simple Justice. Scott's made legal blogging--there is no other way to say this--important. Scott, like any number of great lawyers, and great men, is a straight-up pain in the ass. Verbatim quote: "Not trying to be difficult. I just am." He owes me lunch. He owes me at least $5. But I would, and will, refer any corporate criminal investigation I encounter to any general counsel I know to this man. In serving clients, which is the hardest thing on earth to do well, he gets the importance of: speed, lightning application of law to fact, being right there and being organized. He knows how to talk to the most sophisticated clients in the world when they need a little tough love. Hear him, for example, charm Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard Yard and Harvard itself in this one: "Taxing the Frugal Future". Talk about immersion in the subject matter.

Another Brit doer, David Allen Green, aka Jack of Kent, is a lawyer-blogger with an impressive record of investigative journalism. He asks "should there be a legal blogging prize?, based on his experience last year of reviewing 2000 blogposts for the George Orwell political blogging prize. One of his sources for this thoughtful piece? Our man Charon QC.

Back in the States, well-known Miami trial lawyer Brian Tannebaum writes at "The Practice", his "combat pay" column at Above the Law, "It's Not Always About the Clients", about abusive clients. It's at once a brave and common sense article that educated me about other practices, especially in the criminal defense area. I did not like the title--I can think of a few others that might fit better here--but I liked what he had to say. He made me think.

Another Alpha Dog, Innovator and Doer: Fellow Midwesterner and Seattle-based Dan Harris writes China Law Blog. Like Greenfield and Tannebaum, he lawyers--and writes--every day. If you work, or want to work, in Greater China, follow Dan. See "The Apple-Proview China Trademark Litigation. It’s Gonna Settle. Bet On It". Can you ever imagine Dan not telling a client what he really thinks? I can't.

Super-Athlete and New York PI lawyer Eric Turkewitz covers the Boston Marathon, The Importance of Drinking Water, and my second favorite poet in The Boston Marathon (Highway to Hell)". This Don Rumsfeld (disclosure: I like and admire the guy) quote and triple-haiku, frankly, has always made sense to me:

There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.

And humorist-lawyer Kevin Underhill of Shook, Hardy & Bacon, a name which is at once lyrical and kind of funny-sounding, but I am not sure why, has written "Plaintiff: This Soap Did Not Attract Women as Promised" at his Lowering the Bar. In my next lawyer life, I would like to do some serious class action work in male pheromone or enhancement products that fail.

Mega-Doers in the Profession:

See the ABA Journal's interesting piece, which echos my thoughts on how powerful GCs have become, called The Rise of General Counsel". "The supply of sophisticated business lawyers has increased beyond demand, increasing the power of a few hundred general counsel who control the budgets," the article notes. And I think that is a very good thing for the right outside lawyers who can make the transition from specialists to "quarterbacks" and project managers.

At Above The Law, find out what lawyers worldwide are among the most influential people in the world on the Time 100 list.

At Jamison Koehler's Koehler Law, see a post addressed to the dreaded Slackoisie as infants. It's entitled "Advice To An Incoming 1L: Humble Yourself Before The Law. Surrender".

AttorneyatWork has something that I, for one, can use: "Staying Healthy: 10 Tips for Traveling Lawyers".

The Economist and the Judge on the Bigger Picture, Services, Subsidies: Near and sadly dear to my heart is a must-read by Decline of U.S. Manufacturing by Richard Posner of the enduring Becker-Posner Blog, where Judge Posner hits a few Rust Belt nails on the head. Excerpt:

Becker points to the analogy of agriculture. Employment in agriculture has plummeted, leading to anxieties spurred by agricultural companies about the decline of the “family farm” and the loss of the imagined virtues of the independent farmer, to combat which agriculture continues to be heavily subsidized. The subsidies are widely recognized to be a pure social waste, and the same would be true of subsidizing manufacturing. Like manufacturing, American agriculture is thriving with its historically small labor force.

Finally, here's a soulful, erudite and off-beat article by Steve McConnell, one of the writers of Dechert LLP's Drug and Device Law called "The Long Goodbye".

What About Paris/Clients? is grateful for the opportunity to host Blawg Review a third time. Blawg Review needs to sign up future hosts. It's always an experience. If you are game, get in touch with Ed, the Editor 'n' Chef. The next scheduled Blawg Review will be on May 21 and hosted by Cyberlaw Central, by Kevin Thompson, of Chicago's Davis McGrath LLC.

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Posted by JD Hull at 02:33 AM | Comments (0)

April 19, 2012

Shakespeare, Law and Literature.

See from three years ago a post by Dan Ernst in Legal History Blog on "Law and English Literature". Ernst reviews and introduces two papers by Eric Heinze, of University of London School of Law. On the first Heinze paper:

Legal scholars' interest in Shakespeare has often focused on conventional legal rules and procedures, such as those of The Merchant of Venice or Measure for Measure. Those plays certainly reveal systemic injustice, but within stable, prosperous societies, which enjoy a generally well-functioning legal order.

By contrast, Shakespeare's first historical tetralogy explores the conditions for the very possibility of a legal system, in terms not unlike those described by Hobbes a half-century later. The first tetralogy's deeply collapsed, quasi-anarchic society lacks any functioning legal regime. Its power politics are not, as in many of Shakespeare's other plays, merely latent, surreptitiously lurking beneath the patina of an otherwise functioning legal order. They pervade all of society.

Dissenting from a long critical tradition, this article suggests that the figure of Henry VI does not merely represent antiquated medievalism or inept rule. Through Henry's constant recourse to legal process, arbitration, and anti-militarism, the first tetralogy goes beyond questions about how to establish a functioning legal order. It examines the possibility, and meaning, of a just one.

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Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 11:01 PM | Comments (0)

April 18, 2012

Poetry Month, Year, Age, Whatever: Seamus Heaney's Toome.

At Toomebridge

Where the flat water
Came pouring over the weir out of Lough Neagh
As if it had reached an edge of the flat earth
And fallen shining to the continuous
Present of the Bann.

Where the checkpoint used to be.
Where the rebel boy was hanged in '98.
Where negative ions in the open air
Are poetry to me. As once before
The slime and silver of the fattened eel.

--first poem in Electric Light (2001)


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Posted by JD Hull at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

April 10, 2012

New "memoir" on the midlife Florentine experience: Rebecca Bricker charms us all.

Think of it as an Under the Tuscan Sun for Boomers with Attitude. Tales from Tavanti by Rebecca Bricker.

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Posted by JD Hull at 11:42 PM | Comments (0)

March 10, 2012

Writers Gotta Write: The Return of Simple Justice.

New York criminal defense lawyer Scott Greenfield teased us (me, anyway) at first in a few outings for old times' sake soon after he shut down Simple Justice, his enormously popular blog, on February 13, the day of the site's fifth anniversary. It was hard to say what, if anything, a post-closing post here and there at the old site signaled about the trial lawyer's plans for the future. Don't jump the gun, you told yourself. It might not mean anything but a cooling-off gesture, a victory lap or two around the track for a winning half-decade of quality. But two days ago, in this post, Greenfield made it clear that he was back to his Spartan early morning keyboard regime of reading, thinking, evaluating, reacting, calling-out and inspiring and irritating a remarkably broad spectrum of people in several English-speaking nations. The Return of Greenfield is very good news for a notoriously dodgy and new world neighborhood: The Internet.

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Posted by JD Hull at 02:36 PM | Comments (0)

January 13, 2012

Patrick Lamb: Two Posts on Writing Well that Cover it All.

Read two fine back-to-back posts on writing spanning the sublime to the all-important nuts and bolts. Flowing from the irrepressible pen of Chicago trial lawyer and thought leader Patrick Lamb--Pat's responsible for getting me started blogging seven years ago, so I have sharply conflicting emotions whenever I even think about the guy--are two recent items at his highly-regarded In Search of Perfect Client Service on writing well: "Do you have a Muse?" and "The Importance of Proofreading".

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Posted by JD Hull at 11:18 PM | Comments (0)

January 02, 2012

Our 2nd "most popular" post in the last 12 months was about....Proofreading.

The Damning Quality of Faint Self-Praise. Yeah, Proofreading. Which is important to writers, lawyers, advertising execs and most civilized business people and--often like Writing Itself these days--is an underappreciated and endangered discipline.

The first, or "most popular", post at What About Clients/Paris? site in 2011 was infamous, often detested and the one of which we're most proud in the past year hands down (or thumbs down). We'll try get back to that one later this week or next and make a few important (we think) points about the offending post.

But the second most clicked-upon piece, from August 19, 2011, was this: "Proofreading: It's a Client Thing--Not Optional." We're even more pedestrian than we had thought. And could you check for typos in this post, please? There must be at least one.

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Proofreading: Unsexy but hard.

Posted by JD Hull at 01:19 PM | Comments (2)

October 11, 2011

Stop talking & writing like a lawyer. It's Pompous & Prissy. Use "people" words instead.

Let's get over ourselves, okay? Doesn't changing legal writing to just clear and simple writing come down to leadership? Setting a better example? Why not buck the traditions 100%--whether it's writing to courts, to clients or to other lawyers--and never use legal jargon again? You know those prissy-pretentious words and phrases expressions, don't you, Wendell? You can do it. Man up. Stop using them. See Writing For Clients--Just Say It.


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Posted by JD Hull at 10:03 AM | Comments (0)

September 28, 2011

Writing Well: John Irving on Revisions.

Half my life is an act of revision.

--John Irving (1942-)

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Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

September 08, 2011

Writing Well: The Editors.

I have performed the necessary butchery. Here is the bleeding corpse.

--Henry James (1843-1916), after a request by the Times Literary Supplement to cut 3 lines from a 5,000 word article.

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James with Edith Wharton, 1904

Posted by JD Hull at 10:31 PM | Comments (0)

Writing for Clients, Judges, and other Humans.

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Insane Lawyer Posse? Lawyers, including some judges, have a certain way of talking to each other on paper which (1) really isn't needed and just alienates the rest of the thinking and semi-lucid world, and (b) even makes it think we are talking to ourselves dementedly and self-absorbedly like mental patients on third-rate time-released crank. For example, from the first line of an actual federal district court complaint (with changes made only to protect the lame):

COMPLAINT

COMES NOW, the plaintiff, Upstart Corporation, by and through its attorneys, Adams, Bones & Carson, LLC, brings this cause of action against GiantMart, Inc. for violations of the Lanham Act, and for its reasons, files with this Honorable Court the herein Complaint, the following of which is a statement of its averments and allegations:

Why not instead just:

COMPLAINT

Plaintiff, Upstart Corporation, states:

Is it just me?

Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 12:00 AM | Comments (0)

June 11, 2011

Stop talking & writing like a lawyer. It's Pompous & Faggy. Use "people" words instead.

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Let's get over ourselves. Doesn't changing legal writing to just clear and simple writing come down to leadership? As in "maybe I should start setting a better example"? Why not buck the traditions 100%--whether it's writing to courts, to clients or to other lawyers--and never use those expressions again? You know those prissy-pretentious words and phrases expressions, don't you, Wendell? You can do it. Man up. Stop using them. See Writing For Clients--Just Say It.

Posted by JD Hull at 07:58 AM | Comments (0)

May 15, 2011

Writing Well: The Editors.

"No passion in the world is equal to the passion to alter someone else's draft." --H.G. Wells (1866-1946)

"I have performed the necessary butchery. Here is the bleeding corpse." --Henry James (1843-1916)after a request by the Times Literary Supplement to cut 3 lines from a 5,000 word article.

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Herbert George Wells, 1908

Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 12:59 AM | Comments (1)

May 04, 2011

Norman Cousins: But can you write?

It makes little difference how many university degrees or courses a person may own. If he cannot use words to move an idea from one point to another, his education is incomplete.

--Norman Cousins, Editor and Writer (1915-1990)

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Cousins in 1951 on Ninoshima Island (Chugoku Shimbun)

Posted by JD Hull at 11:14 PM | Comments (0)

April 06, 2011

Writing Well: The Rain Man v. The Boilerplate Vampires.

Our friend Ray Ward is a man any new hire--an ambitious law clerk, sought-after first-year associate, needy Teacup, stressed Tubbie, or flat-out Looter-in-Training--would be lucky to meet on the first day of work.

Unfortunately, most of us don't meet anyone like him. So we risk a quicker and more hideous transformation to the ranks of generic lawyers, mechanics, "legal professionals", law cattle and, in extreme cases, Crested Newts.

In this profession, bad Shapeshifting happens.

Ward, a writer, Renaissance man, and appellate lawyer with New Orleans-based powerhouse Adams and Reese LLP, can help you avoid these mutations. He's wary of legal forms, or templates, to do his own work. Indeed, any boilerplate gives him the willies. Read "An Editorial Against Boilerplate" and "The Vampires of Legal Writing" at his The (New) Legal Writer.

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Generic New Orleans Forms-Vampire


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Vampire-Killer Ray Ward

Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 10:00 AM | Comments (0)

March 07, 2011

Jim McElhaney: Write and Practice to the Ear.

In several of its decades, in my view, Jim McElhaney was the only person or thing that saved the ABA from being 24/7 the shamefully uncreative Robot-Suit Wankfest that it still generally is. The Reason? It followed--never led. The Good News? The best lawyers in America were--and often still are--members. The Irony? Those lawyers were employed by the very same firms that were turning the legal profession into a cynical ruse and dodge--even for to-die-for corporate clients we all sought and still seek to service.

No one had learned to reconcile the two hard facts that law was morphing into both (a) a profitable business and (b) a profession. No one even tried. These two facts still collide for clients. The simple question was begged for two decades or more: how do we now align client interests with our own? "Value" to customers was never discussed. Real "class" was never a goal.

McElhaney, a teacher of trial skills, and an ABA star and stalwart, had loads of both. He was the only reason I stayed a member for 15 years or so. Remember him and others in the great "Litigation" quarterly? I still have them all. But I am not an ABA member now; I am a member of four state bars, one international lawyer group I am very proud of, two non-lawyer groups I am also proud of, and the IBA, which makes more sense for me and mine.

See in January's ABA Journal "Listen to What You Write: Your Ears Will Tell You If You’re Communicating Ideas Effectively. It concludes:

Polish the piece again and again. Keep asking yourself, “If I were reading this for the first time, would I understand everything it says?”

Then read it out loud to as many people as you can make listen—one at a time. Your ear will catch the little mistakes and omissions your eye skipped over. And if anything sounds awkward or strange, even if it looks OK, fix it so it sounds right.

Write to the ear so your readers will hear what you have to say.

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Posted by JD Hull at 04:26 AM | Comments (1)

January 03, 2011

Breaking: Erudite Brit explains Cicero to Unwashed Yankees.

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Arrival of Charon. Gustave Doré's take on Dante's Inferno. Plate IX: Canto III:

And lo! towards us coming in a boat
An old man, hoary with the hair of eld,
Crying: 'Woe unto you, ye souls depraved!'

Get your learn on, Law Campers. Conjugate Verbs all by yourselves. Dabble in World Geography. Even some History. Visit Professor Charon at Blawg Review #292.

Posted by JD Hull at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

November 16, 2010

Writing Well: Satire--and Law?

The satirist is to be regarded as our physician, not our enemy.

--Henry Fielding, 1707-1754

Like lawyers, physicians may no longer be the great opinion leaders, or social architects, they once were, or people had hoped they would be. Still, you get what Fielding was trying to say. But satire (even Swift's) really never moves people. It just clarifies and makes them think.

So maybe it's ironic that satire is the only form of legal writing (I've even seen clever poetry in U.S. Tax Court pleadings) no one ever does--and should not try to do--in court papers, opinion letters or inter-lawyer correspondence. The law needs certainty, clarity and steadiness of tone--all kept at a consistent wave-length so we do not lose our place. You need to know the speaker or writer is 100% dead stone sober, and painfully no-nonsense serious. All are necessary mediocrities, if no fun at all.

But you do get excited and think you are about to see some great and epic satire and commentary every time you read a pleading which begins "COMES NOW...", a letter which begins (and my favorite) "Enclosed herewith please find..." or contract which uses "said" frequently. You are disappointed when you realize it's intended to be a serious document.

Legal Writing. Legalese. Legal-Speak. Can't we just "say it"?

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Fielding's first novel was Joseph Andrews (1742), in which footboy Joseph rejects Lady Booby's advances.

Posted by JD Hull at 11:50 PM | Comments (1)

November 15, 2010

Writing Well: Legal-speak needs to go.

Behold the image of the self-important "I'm-special" lawyer, rocking back and forth in his chair, and talking to himself like a mental patient.

Please help. It's silly and no one's impressed anymore. People are laughing again. Oh, Lawyer-Speak and Legalese. Of the lamer lawyer-centric institutions, only "Professionalism" and "Work-Life Balance" are more embarrassing, abused and irrelevant, and more likely to undermine clients, than the way in which many lawyers continue to speak and write. At least those two prissy battle cries originally had a point. But Legalese never had a point.

A few years ago, another law firm sent us a draft of a simple housekeeping agreement. It was a 3-page confidentiality agreement used during talks for an acquisition.

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We responded by submitting our own draft because, among other things, the draft we had received (presumably a "model" they had around their office) contained this language:

"Effective on even date herewith, the parties hereto hereby agree to...".

Whoa. How about just one date at the top or bottom of the Agreement and then say "The parties agree..."? And if the whole thing is an "Agreement", with language showing that the parties intend to be bound, maybe you don't even need that?

Either would save trees, ink and space, and would get the idea of contract across, and out of the way. And either would help diminish the image of the self-important "I'm-special" lawyer rocking back and forth in his chair, and talking to himself like a mental patient.

(from past JDH WAC? posts)

Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 11:54 PM | Comments (0)

October 19, 2010

National Writing Day: Blawg Review #286

This week's Blawg Review is a soulful meditation on writing. It's also a kind of ode to us unsung rubes who've loved to write, slaved away at it, and done it in declasse English for the past six centuries. And BR #286 of course, as usual, offers more. Do note that tomorrow, October 20, is the 2nd annual National Day on Writing.

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Posted by JD Hull at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

April 13, 2010

Writing as perfect Hell.

I am irritated by my own writing. I am like a violinist whose ear is true, but whose fingers refuse to reproduce precisely the sound he hears within.

--Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880)

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Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

December 02, 2009

Sane writing.

It makes little difference how many university degrees or courses a person may own. If he cannot use words to move an idea from one point to another, his education is incomplete.

--Norman Cousins, author, editor, professor (1912-1990)

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Posted by Rob Bodine at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

September 22, 2009

Today in Calais: French police lose it a little.

Stranger and more violent things have happened on the shore facing Kent over the past 2200 years. But illegal immigration is increasingly a big issue in Europe. Relations between official France and the UK have suffered. See the AP story:

CALAIS, France--French police cleared out then bulldozed a squalid, sprawling forest camp near the northern city of Calais on Tuesday, detaining hundreds of illegal migrants who had hoped to slip across the English Channel into Britain.

French Immigration Minister Eric Besson, who visited the site known as "the jungle," called it a "base camp for human traffickers" and said he would return the rule of law to the northern French coast.

"The law of the jungle cannot last eternally," Besson said. "A state of law must be re-established in Calais." [more]

Posted by Rob Bodine at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

August 26, 2009

Writing Well: Working at it.

Half my life is an act of revision.

--John Irving (1942-)

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Posted by Rob Bodine at 11:27 PM | Comments (0)

April 20, 2009

Blawg Review by two lawyer-journalists.

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Query: What if H.L Mencken had been a lawyer, too?

Since October 2008, I've been working and traveling more than I would have expected. Family, clients and our law firm come first--in that order. Always in fourth place: all non-billable writing. That means blog posts, articles and op-ed pieces with pithy titles like "The Future of Awesome New Rule 502, F.R.E." and "The Mood of the Midwest: Victimized Women Lawyers of South Bend Speak Out" and "George W. Bush: One Of Us" are last. Repeat: blogging is fourth. Always. But we still read Blawg Review every week--whether we write about it or not. Always.

Blawg Review has become increasingly global and inclusive--without losing its edge and relevancy. In the last two weeks, it was hosted first (a) by one of the best of the established legal blog writers (a Yank), and then last week (b) by one of the newer crop of thinker-writers (not-a-Yank, but we'll claim this guy anyway):

The "down" economy may change forever the way clients choose and work with outside lawyers. But what of sound lawyering and sane writing? We just don't expect either to go out of style; we do worry that cookie-cutter, mail-it-in lawyering, and lame legal writing, are part of a trend foisted on us all by a growing and insidious herd of "law cattle" which, like livestock over the centuries, don't know it when they're fouling up the pasture. Well, fellow Scots-Welshman J. Craig Williams is one of the few true lawyer-journalists out there. We like that he even exists. Trial lawyer and writer--excellent and enduring in each discipline--Craig turned in a fine Celtic Blawg Review #206: "All Things Scottish" at his May It Please The Court.

Williams, incidentally, is one of the handful of lawyer-bloggers I have met, or really wanted to meet, on his or her own turf. That list is short, but satisfying: Chicago's Pat Lamb, "Ed." of Blawg Review, London's Justin Patten and Charon QC, Seattle's Kevin O'Keefe (China lawyer Dan Harris, also of Seattle, quite rudely left town upon hearing of my trip) and, finally, the UK's GeekLawyer (which frankly is more like meeting 7 or 8 people).

But here's another lawyer-journalist I'd like to meet. Last week, Jordan Furlong, a visionary but sober Canadian writer--similarly, you rarely see both attributes at once in one human--again gave us something to admire with Blawg Review #207: "All the News That Fits" at his Law21. Jordan immediately impressed WAC? with his insights on where this profession is headed--at least in The West--when he started Law 21 in January 2008. He's been right about a few things.

WAC? included these two sites--along with, of course, the genuinely profession-changing phenomenon of Blawg Review itself--in our February 9 post about the handful of must-read blogs. There just aren't that many, folks.

Posted by JD Hull at 11:59 PM | Comments (1)

April 03, 2009

Celestial: Declarations and Exclusions

We worked hard this week--but did one mandatory non-billable thing. We visited, read and listened to George Wallace's Blawg Review #205, and admired his bonus post for you April fools. Speaking of same, the late Holden Oliver, misanthrope and tragic philanderer, once said that California's erudite Wallace was "the only insurance lawyer living who doesn't remind me of a plant, a rock or a household appliance". Our short form review of #205 should do it: fine, authentic, literate, worldly--and celestial. His Appendix to #205? We'll get to it. Busy here.

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Meet Mr. Holst

Posted by JD Hull at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

March 09, 2009

Blog post title of the month--so far.

And legislation of the year--hands down. It's "Drop the Barbie and Step Away" at Scott Greenfield's Simple Justice. It concerns:

A BILL to amend the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, by adding thereto a new article, designated §47-25-1, relating to banning the sale of “Barbie” dolls and other dolls that influence girls to be beautiful.

WAC? has taken a stand against the pain inflicted by Barbie dolls in America, too--especially in several Midwestern towns we frequent, where men and women alike are getting big enough to have their own zip codes. There's no point in rubbing it in.

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We suggest "old" Barbie: a lot more PC. And what about an "ample" Barbie? Hey, it could happen.

Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 05:40 AM | Comments (1)

March 06, 2009

Upcoming Blawg Reviews: Global, urbane, a smidgen profane.

No-Wank Zone. It's all good. As a phrase, it's only exceeded in lameness by using "party" as a verb or "interface" in a meeting. But "all good" may apply here. In the next two months, some of the very best legal webzines and blogs are on deck to host Blawg Review, starting with UK barrister Carl Gardner and his Head of Legal on Monday, March 9. Next up: profane GeekLawyer (March 16) and urbane Above The Law (March 23). Below London's Charon QC speaks with GeekLawyer:

Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 11:56 PM | Comments (0)

February 24, 2009

If you believe in Ed., maybe he won't die.

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See Blawg Review #200, in which Ed. meditates on, well, his demise, and the death of Blawg Review. He and his Sherpas have been the idea, force, class and hard work behind the best trading in the global marketplace of legal ideas that anyone has ever seen. He wouldn't up and die on us, like that wonderful demented old hound dog I once had in Ohio, would he? Ed's human, mainly, and therefore a bit cagey and manipulative, too. But so was that dog. Look, just in case, everyone should close their eyes, and with feeling say together "I believe in Ed." or whatever--and maybe he and it will live on. Okay? Or you can host Blawg Review. Do something. He owes WAC? about $20 USD.

Above: Disney's Tinkerbell, who started out pretend life as J.M. Barrie's fairy in 1904.

Posted by JD Hull at 06:47 PM | Comments (2)

February 17, 2009

The Republic of Bennett

WAC? loves Texans, Texas, Houston, Texas, Archie Bell and the Drells, ZZ Top, Shelley Duvall, the late Bob Eckhardt (8th District Congressman, 1967–1981), and criminal defense lawyers. Always have. And we admire everything about Mark Bennett's first-rate Blawg Review #199 at his outspoken and useful-as-hell Defending People. We admired this sentence, too: "The lesson for trial lawyers is that the way we ask our questions affects not only the answers we get, but also whether we get answers at all." Tighten up, y'all.

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Robert Christian "Bob" Eckhardt. Lawyer, editor and lawmaker (1913-2001). One authentic human.

Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 11:30 PM | Comments (1)

February 11, 2009

Writing well: Craig Williams

How to Get Sued: An Instructional Guide is by Newport Beach trial lawyer and writer J. Craig Williams, who also authors the respected May It Please The Court. How To Get Sued covers, in an irreverent way, how "real life" becomes "real litigation".

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Posted by JD Hull at 12:59 AM | Comments (0)

January 17, 2009

Last to rave and to be re-born.

The Phoenix represents to many the life cycle: birth, growth, death and re-birth because from the ashes life arises anew often strengthened through reinvention. But this happens not just from reinvention of oneself but through innovation. And innovation helps to propel us forward.

--SCL

We got a Phoenix for you right here. This past week, billing hours, and defending the insensitive, the unreconstructed and the un-defendable, WAC? nearly missed telling you about Blawg Review #194. The host this week: she always makes too much sense. So we do not always agree with Susan Cartier Liebel--is that a great multicultural handle or what?--but we always read her anyway at her Build A Solo Practice, LLC. Reason: we check in with her just in case we are wrong-headed, backward or archaic about life and the law generally, which is likely. If we ever decide to evolve, and become sensitive new age gentlemen, which is not likely, we'd hire her in in a heartbeat. Currently, we do not need a "coach"--but we do need sensibly-priced Jameson Irish hooch. Directions?

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Phoenix Park Hotel, 520 North Capitol Street, N.W. Washington, D.C, within lunging distance of Kelly's Irish Times, in case you get un-evolved and can't walk home, or wish to meet Róisín, Tara or Brigit.

Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 02:36 PM | Comments (3)

January 11, 2009

New Zealand: A Kiwi summer vacation.

The Griswolds do Easter Island? Well, Wellington's Geoff Sharp is not Clark Griswold, but do see "How to Salvage a Summer Holiday" at his mediator blah...blah.... It begins:

Given my last post you are forgiven for expecting this entry to come from a remote Andean valley or beamed out from atop Machu Picchu which, btw, is rumoured to have gone wireless. [more]

Stop. Machu Picchu gone wireless? Say it ain't so, Geoff.

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Sir Geoffrey of Wellington

Posted by JD Hull at 11:38 PM | Comments (0)

December 10, 2008

Writing well--and sanely.

One of WAC?'s most clicked-on articles, a short one, is "Just Say It: The War Against Legal-Speak". It was inspired by parts of a disturbing if entertaining lawyer document we were forced to read for money at work. Our point was, and is, that plain, simple, clear and non-legal style writing in the legal profession could help get things done and, if humanly possible, help the image of lawyers.

Note: At least one respected UK lawyer and pundit agrees that the profession's continued use of "Legalese or Lawyer-speak" makes little sense to anyone. London's erudite and playful Charon QC brought up and even read aloud an earlier version of the same post in his July 2008 interview with Dan Hull.

Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 11:24 PM | Comments (0)

The Tree of Good Writing

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By Andō Tokutarō, circa 1846

Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 10:07 AM | Comments (0)

December 08, 2008

Just Praise: For Colin Samuels and Blawg Review #189.

See, read and feel this inspired and amazing creation, and form of art unto itself. Blawg Review this week is hosted by literate wordsmith-lawyer Colin Samuels at his Infamy or Praise. In #189, he spins and weaves last week's best posts together with Samuel Taylor Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

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Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 12:00 AM | Comments (0)

December 05, 2008

Update: Take this to the ABA polls with you.

Re: the ABA Journal Blawg 100 voting, here are just a few of the blogs we know well and know are first-rate. Sorry if we left anyone out, and we may revise our short list soon.

Do vote for China Law Blog, Canada's FP Legal Post, Simple Justice, TaxProf Blog, Deliberations, and Real Lawyers Have Blogs.

And, even though it's in the same category--"Careers"--as What About Clients?, we strongly urge you to vote for Jordan Furlong's Canada-based Law21 for its outstanding contribution in 2008 (its first year) to the discussion of "what's next" for this profession. On the strength of Jordan's commentary alone, perceptive and often visionary, Law21 deserves your attention and vote.

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Jordan Furlong of Law21

Brit Wit. Speaking of non-U.S. sites, two very great London blogs didn't make the ABA Journal "100" list for reasons which may be good ones but presently escape me and about 350,000 others. If there's a way to do write-in votes for the lyrical and erudite Charon QC, and for the dangerously insane but way-fun barrister GeekLawyer, please do that. Both gentlemen burst with fine writing and ideas, do the best podcasts you'll hear, and have been blogging since perhaps the late 1950s. They are each Brit-quirky out the wazoo.

Besides, the Journal should not want GeekLawyer as an enemy. No one does. See, e.g., Blawg Review #166. In early September, on my way to Kent and Zurich, I finally met with him in London, near the Marble Arch, for an hour or so. There is something wrong with him.

Major Class. Finally, there's another "write-in" we should all do for a consistently worthwhile and class U.S. site. It's by a lawyer who can think, feel, live, write, write about writing, and listen to all the music: Ray Ward's Minor Wisdom. Category/award: Best Site by a Lawyer-Renaissance Man Aiming to Make His Life a Work of Art. See also Ray's the (new) legal writer. And visit New Orleans.

Posted by JD Hull at 11:59 PM | Comments (2)

December 04, 2008

We got something bipolar for you right here.

Writing well: grace, joy and attitude. At Salon, see "Princess Leia's wild, bipolar adventures", a review by Rebecca Traister of Carrie Fisher's new book, Wishful Drinking, which started out two years ago as an LA theater "seminar" and popular autobiographical one-woman show. Traister: "Fisher is a language obsessive, a nimble verbal acrobat who puns and somersaults around a page with glee."

Who says crazy people can't write?

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Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 12:42 AM | Comments (0)

August 26, 2008

Blawg Review #174: The "Themeless" Edition

Blawg Review is "themeless" this week, but still highlights some of the best legal blogging in litigation, practice management and technology, as well as some interesting miscellaneous posts. No. 174 is hosted by D. Todd Smith at Texas Appellate Law Blog.

Posted by Brooke Powell at 11:20 PM | Comments (0)

August 17, 2008

Blawg Review #173: World Record Swimming

Blawg Review is hosted this week by R. David Donoghue at Chicago IP Litigation Blog. No. 173 applies the principles for setting world swimming records to the blawgosphere.

Posted by Brooke Powell at 11:15 PM | Comments (0)

August 12, 2008

Blawg Review #172: The Olympics Come to the Blogosphere

This week's Blawg Review, No. 172, is hosted by Jon Hyman at Ohio Employer's Law Blog who puts on his own Olympic events in both labor and non-labor categories.

Posted by Brooke Powell at 11:50 PM | Comments (0)

August 05, 2008

Victoria Pynchon's #171: Like a Vixen.

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We'll show you an "aha" moment, you saucy flirt. The multi-talented Vickie Pynchon, an attractive lawyer in my neck of the jungle Holden Oliver has a huge thing for, writes Settle It Now--a site which, like its title, always makes too much sense--and the IP ADR Blog. She did the Blawg Review honors this week with #171. Her "Like-A-Virgin" edition (her first time) has a sexual theme. WAC? has taken a stand against this sort of thing generally--but it's not like #171 was more than she could handle, as it were. In fact, this is one of the best Blawg Reviews you'll see. It illustrates our often-made point that inexperienced BR hostesses often make up for lack of experience with enthusiasm, creativity and making the right moves and noises, if you

get our drift. She must have taken on about 50 of last week's posts, and Vickie finds sexual innuendo in about half of those. The only kinds of activity or persuasion not alluded to in her epic, exhaustive and heaving performance are Ben Wa balls, the Stair-Walker, things you can do with pearls, the Antler Dance, and "animal buddies", if you catch our meaning. I think Holden and a friend are driving down to Vickie's house in LA right now.

Posted by JD Hull at 11:17 PM | Comments (1)

July 22, 2008

Brands, Buzz and Whispers: Blawg Review #169

This week, Blawg Review, No. 169 is hosted by brand strategy consultants Whisper. It focuses on "lawyers demonstrating their brands and thereby revealing their unique genius, rather than devolving to labored explanations of relevancy." Well, you get the idea.

Posted by Brooke Powell at 10:20 AM | Comments (0)

Ruthie's Law does itself in.

Because "she is increasingly in demand for writing that she actually gets paid for", the much-stalked and popular Brit law bird Ruthie of Ruthie's Law is terminating her blog but promises to come back in the form of a website.

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Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 12:00 AM | Comments (3)

July 16, 2008

The Tree of Good Writing

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By Andō Tokutarō, circa 1846

Posted by JD Hull at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

July 12, 2008

Writing well

He who can properly summarize many ideas in a brief statement is a wise man.

Euripides, non-lawyer (480-406 B.C.)

Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

July 08, 2008

Blawg Review Republic

Do read Blawg Review #167, skillfully covering last week's best posts. Ambitious and expertly-done, it pays homage to the 50 states in order of their ratification of the Constitution. And there's even a mention of WAC?'s native Washington, D.C., where for years this blog's founder freely romped with the sage Ernie from Glen Burnie and discovered, unfortunately, his inner Irish guy. So our comment yesterday to Northern Virginia's Jon Frieden and his E-Commerce Law, the hosts of Blawg Review #167, stands:

Wow is the word. Classy, literate, both broad and deep; we "past-is-prologue" history of ideas freaks at WAC? love the ratification springboard. First rate--and this week all without hard porn, too. How'd you manage that...?

Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 12:41 AM | Comments (0)

July 02, 2008

Bad dog: GeekLawyer coverage

Oxford grads are baaad. Blawg Review #166, hosted this week by the Keith Moon of legal blogs, got noticed. Nothing sacred; no one spared.

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Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 08:07 PM | Comments (4)

July 01, 2008

O Rare GeekLawyer

If you want a friend, find Jesus; but punters [clients] are for bleeding.

--GeekLawyer on Client Service

Blawg Review #666. Barrister-pundit GeekLawyer never disappoints. We at WAC? like him the way he is. But the world-famous Glastonbury festival in Somerset this past weekend likely did him in--so I plan to take him to an AA meeting near Fleet and Chancery when I'm in London in September. This is Blawg Review #166. He is your host. Women, children, liberals, conservatives, Catholics, Presbyterians, Baptists, Methodists, your Mom, Mormons, the religious right, Midwesterners, most lawyers and their spouses will not like it. Witty, very British--and vile. So it's bound to be one of the most popular and famous Blawg Reviews ever. Bravo. You sick unit.

Posted by JD Hull at 11:59 PM | Comments (2)

June 26, 2008

Next up at Global Blawg Review: GeekLawyer.

The big question for Blawg Review readers next week is Geeklawyer to run rampage through the next Blawg Review? A relatively tame and expletive-laundered sampling is below:

Dan Hull’s blog is the quintessential American lawyer blog. Dan is a depraved evil sociopathic neocon ambulance chasing beast pretending he loves his clients merely to get into their wallets. Of course he has his bad side too but let us not explore that little dark alleyway now.

--GeekLawyer, October 6, 2007

Posted by JD Hull at 11:18 PM | Comments (1)

June 02, 2008

China Law Blog: The World Peace Edition of Blawg Review

Blawg Review #162 is hosted by Dan Harris at China Law Blog. Harris, as always, is ambitious. He takes us all over the globe. He instructs. He opines. But his real goal is World Peace, and sweetness and light generally. He accomplishes this in his exemplary, humorous, memorable and truly great Blawg Review edition--with one war-like exception.

In response to our post on Saturday, "Big Dog finally hosts Blawg Review", Harris addresses a one-on-one basketball match with my boss. Harris, a Hoosier, claims that since Dan Hull is from Ohio it wouldn't be a fair contest. To that, we have two words: LeBron James, a Buckeye.

Posted by Brooke Powell at 08:22 AM | Comments (0)

May 23, 2008

Got proofreading?--Part II

Proofreading may be boring. But it's important, and part of who you are if you are in the business of turning words into money and value. Here's a comment by Minneapolis lawyer T.J. Conley--he gives us wisdom and a tip--in response to yesterday's post:

One of the senior lawyers at our firm used to say that you are only as good a lawyer as you are a proofreader. One of my tricks, to avoid the natural tendency to see what you think should be there, is to read a document backwards. You'd be amazed at what you catch.

Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 05:03 PM | Comments (0)

May 22, 2008

Got proofreading?

Proofreading errors are avoidable, even under the gun--if you make ardor in proofreading a habit.

Take invoices to clients. Invoices, if done correctly, are a great way to communicate what you've done for a client and they can even serve as a marketing tool. They are a genre of documents we all need to get right. Clients can always be expected to read them. So they need to be really "right", right?

Lawyers don't talk about proofreading enough. It amazes us that badly proofread pleadings and letters still emanate from some of the best American and European law firms. It mars and even desecrates otherwise good and sometimes brilliant work. Mistakes will happen in

law practice in any event--but the idea is to minimize them, and especially those you can control. Proofreading errors are avoidable, even under the gun, if you make ardor in doing it a habit. Our recurring nightmare is that the GC of our best client says: "If at $___ an hour you guys can't spell [or write], believe me, we can find a law firm tomorrow morning that can." For that reason, as mentioned in a 2005 WAC? "Just Say It" post on writing for lawyers, Rule 5 (of 8) in the good writing section of our firm's Practice Guide is:

5. Proofread, proofread, proofread. (Oh yes, at our firm, we have a written policy on proofreading you must actually sign before you start work. Go ahead, laugh.)

"Pretend that, for every typo you miss or grammatical error you make, you have to buy Dan Hull as many Heinekens as he could drink in one evening in his late twenties on St. Patrick's Day in the most expensive Capitol Hill watering hole he and his friends could find."

Together with thinking and writing simply and clearly, there's no more important habit for a lawyer to develop. Misspellings, omitted or misplaced words and off-the-charts bad grammar are often important errors which blot out otherwise good work--and ones we can control.

It's that simple.

Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 12:59 AM | Comments (2)

May 19, 2008

Blawg Review #160: Ms. Ruthie, finally.

"The ultimate London law bird", according to Palo Alto-based WAC? news chief Holden Oliver, hosts this week's Blawg Review #160 at Ruthie's Law. For a time she was Robin to GeekLawyer's Howard, and much more. Brains, beauty, wit and British subtlety in one hard-working solictor. Originally from King's Lynn in Norfolk (on The Wash), she just moved to London, which she plans to conquer. A European with an American soul.

Posted by Brooke Powell at 11:31 PM | Comments (1)

May 17, 2008

London star Ms. Ruthie hosts next Blawg Review.

Ruthie of Ruthie's Law is the ultimate London law bird: (1) solicitor-writer-biker and (2) one of the few women who on earth who can make my badly jet-lagged boss--now on his way back to California--gush, rock back and forth like a mental patient, and make noises like a damn raccoon. "To most of the world, she's a saucy if talented flirt--but she melts my heart". Ruthie hosts Blawg Review this week, Monday, May 19th.

Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 11:01 PM | Comments (1)

May 16, 2008

Writing Well: The Criminal Defense Trial Lawyer Weenie-Client Exception.

New York's Scott Greenfield at Simple Justice makes a good point in "Crossed I's, Dotted T's, Enough".

Posted by JD Hull at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

May 12, 2008

Blawg Review #159

This week's Blawg Review #159 is hosted by Brian LaBovick at the Whistleblower Law Blog.

Posted by Brooke Powell at 05:33 AM | Comments (0)

May 10, 2008

Writing well: we're not.

It's what we've been trying to tell you. It's a problem and a shame. The lawyer as man or woman of letters: where did you go? We've had to ask half the bright young associates and law clerks we work with if English is really their first language. And all the electronics aren't helping matters. See National Law Journal.

Posted by JD Hull at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

May 05, 2008

Your Mother hosts Blawg Review.

Our Blawg Review host for BR #158 is a Dallas mom-attorney at The Mommy Blawg. The focus in part is on today, apparently International Midwives' Day. But she writes very well, this mother, better than WAC?'s moms.

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Some Mothers we knew 1964-75

Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

April 28, 2008

Oh Canada: Blawg Review #157

Toronto-based Michael Fitzgibbon hosts this week's Blawg Review #157 at Thoughts from a Management Lawyer. Fitzgibbon's is one of the most active and consistently fine lawyer sites you could read.

Posted by Brooke Powell at 11:58 PM | Comments (2)

April 21, 2008

Blawg Review #156: Are you an Avatar?

"Are virtual worlds the beginning of the end of society?" And what's virtual law, anyway? Author-blogger Benjamin Duranske hosts this week's Blawg Review #156 at Virtually Blind. Strange, wonderful, even inspiring. And a very nice review of last week's posts. BR #156 also gets a write-up by Robert Ambrogi, who like us is intrigued by virtuality, at ALM's Legal Blog Watch.

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An Avatar, pre-Durankse.

Posted by Brooke Powell at 12:58 AM | Comments (0)

April 14, 2008

Blawg Review #155: Bad Poetry Day

Greg May hosts this week's Blawg Review #155 at The California Blog of Appeal.

Posted by Brooke Powell at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

April 11, 2008

Writing well.

The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.

--Mark Twain (1835-1910)

Posted by JD Hull at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

April 09, 2008

Two industry victories in one online music sharing case.

Tom Welshonce's article "Record Companies Score Two Victories in One Case Against Online Music Sharing" was published in the March 28 edition of the Allegheny County Bar Association's Lawyers Journal. Virgin Records v. Thomas is the case of Jammie Thomas, a 30 year-old woman sued by seven record companies for unlawfully sharing music

files online. In October, a jury awarded the record companies $222,000 in damages for violation of copyrights in 24 songs. In December, the Bush administration threw its support behind the record companies by asking that the judge uphold the constitutionality of the award. A motion for new trial is still pending before the Minnesota district court. Read the article here or here.

Posted by Brooke Powell at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

April 07, 2008

Blawg Review 154: World Health Day

David Harlow hosts this week's Blawg Review #154 at HealthBlawg.

Posted by Brooke Powell at 07:02 AM | Comments (0)

March 31, 2008

Pirate Blawg Review #153

Aye, matey--it's not Talk Like a Pirate Day yet, but Real Pirates keep it up all year round. The savage and merciless "Captain George" Wallace of Wallace & Schwartz hosts this week's Blawg Review #153 at Declarations and Exclusions. Read it now, ya' empty ignorant black-hearted law scums, or we'll have it out of yer meager wages.

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Posted by Brooke Powell at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

March 17, 2008

Saint Patrick's Day Blawg Review

In Dublin, Daithí Mac Sithigh hosts this week's Blawg Review #151 at Lex Ferenda.

Posted by Brooke Powell at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

March 13, 2008

Law Practice Magazine: Reading Minds

Stephanie West Allen, in her inaugural "Reading Minds" column of the ABA's Law Practice Magazine's March 2008 issue, asked "wise minds" to recommend their favorite books on the topic of building professional relationships. Read one J. Daniel Hull's paragraph on Cicero on Friendship--and then the suggestions of three genuinely wise people: Karen E. Glover, U.S. District Court Judge John Kane and Susan Cartier Liebel.

Posted by Brooke Powell at 03:19 PM | Comments (0)

March 10, 2008

Blawg Review #150: Trust Matters and Charles Green

Charles H. Green of Trusted Advisor Associates hosts this week's Blawg Review #150 at Trust Matters. His rendition is straightforward, thoughtful, and rich with ideas you can use today.

Posted by Brooke Powell at 03:59 AM | Comments (0)

March 05, 2008

Blawg Review #149: Antitrust Review

David Fischer of Shook, Hardy & Bacon, LLP hosts Blawg Review No. 149 at Antitrust Review.

Posted by Brooke Powell at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

February 26, 2008

More on good writing--for associates.

In the ABA's Law Practice Magazine, by Marcia Pennington Shannon: Helping Associates Improve Their Writing Skills.

Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 12:29 AM | Comments (0)

February 25, 2008

More high notes and wisdom from Iowa: Blawg Review #148

For the second week in a row, Iowa--a Midwestern U.S. state known for French explorers, the great Sac and Fox tribes, solid people, fine writing and now nimble IP muscle boutiques--claims center stage in the world of legal weblogs. Brett Trout at BlawgIT hosts this week's Blawg Review, No. 148.

Posted by Brooke Powell at 11:00 PM | Comments (0)

February 18, 2008

Just Say It: The War Against Legal-Speak.

Lawyer-Speak and Legalese. Of all lawyer-centric institutions, only "Professionalism" and "Work-Life Balance" are more embarrassing or more likely to undermine clients--and at least those two originally had a point. Catching up on Sunday morning, I noticed a clause from the unused draft of a 3-page IP agreement used during talks for an acquisition a few years ago and forwarded by one party's lawyer: "Effective on even date herewith, the parties hereto hereby agree to...". Whoa. How about just one date at the top or bottom of the Agreement and then say "The parties agree..."? And if the whole thing is an Agreement, hey, maybe you don't even need that? Either would save trees, ink and space, be more to the point--and would help diminish the image of the self-important "I'm-special" lawyer rocking back and forth in his chair and talking to himself like a mental patient.

Update: Thanks, as always, to our good twin and ally Ray Ward at his the (new) legal writer. WAC? feels less alone.

Posted by JD Hull at 11:45 AM | Comments (0)

January 28, 2008

Bilbo Gandalf LLC

Bilbo then disappears. Bilbo has actually put on his magic ring and slipped away. Back at his hobbit hole, Bag End, he has a frank talk with Gandalf the wizard before leaving the ring behind for Frodo. This sets up the rest of the three books, which tell of Frodo’s quest to destroy the ring and thereby save Middle Earth. Was just a matter of right time and place. See Blawg Review #144 at Cyberlaw Central.

Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 12:23 AM | Comments (0)

January 14, 2008

Blawg Review #142

Blawg Review #142, a letter to a new lawyer, is hosted by Susan Cartier Liebel at Build A Solo Practice, LLC.

Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 06:10 AM | Comments (0)

January 07, 2008

Blawg Review #141

This week's Blawg Review is hosted by the erudite U.K. blogger Charon QC. Dan Hull met Charon in London last year, and was very impressed. We are all impressed by Blawg Review #141.

Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 04:39 AM | Comments (0)

December 30, 2007

WAC?'s Blawg Review nominations

For Blawg Review of the Year, they are #'s 94, 102, 116, 127, 134, 137. In a short time, Blawg Review has emerged as a progressive, straight-up phenom. Bravo to all hosts--getting better and better--and to that hard-working Ed. guy, especially for going outside the often-insular U.S. for hosts. Bring on more Brits, Scots, any extant Picts, Irish guys, Aussies, Canadians, the French, Germans, New Zealand, South Africa, maybe Utah. More Asia!

Posted by JD Hull at 10:09 AM | Comments (0)

December 17, 2007

Blawg Review #139

This week's Blawg Review (#139) is hosted by Legal Literacy.

Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 04:49 AM | Comments (0)

December 12, 2007

Blawg Review #138

The Human Rights Day Blawg Review is hosted by PG at de novo.

Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 12:39 AM | Comments (0)

December 05, 2007

Blawg Review this week: Heavenly.

Beauty awakens the soul to act.

--Dante Alighieri (1265-1321)

You need inspiration? Well, WAC? does; we need a miracle every day. Blawg Review, consistently first-rate and tasteful, often literary, cannot be much finer or heroic than it is this week. A double-Blawg Review of the Year winner, Colin Samuels at Infamy or Praise is an admirer of The Divine Comedy, Dante Alighieri's epic poem written between 1308 and 1321. At Blawg Review, Colin now brings to a close his Divine Comedy theme and narrative tracking Dante's journey through Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise (or Heaven), guided first by the Roman Epic Poet Virgil, then by Dante's Life-Long Love Beatrice--and

finally of course by The Yank Lawyer Colin.* In the third cantica, Paradiso--that's Blawg Review #137 for us folks in bow-ties with PDAs and Harvard Bluebooks--Beatrice guides Dante through the nine spheres of Heaven. Dante even sees the face of God, but can find no words to report his experience: All'alta fantasia qui mancò possa ("at this high moment, ability failed my capacity to describe") XXXIII, 142. In 2005, Colin first hosted BR with Inferno-themed Blawg Review #35 and became the 2005 Blawg Review of the Year winner. Hosting again in 2006, he decided to stay with Dante's great work, and published a Purgatorio-themed Blawg Review #86--and again, won the "best review" award. The engravings appearing on Colin's posts in all three installments are by the renowned French artist and book illustator Paul Gustave Doré, and from the illustrated editions of The Divine Comedy published 1857 and 1867.

*Virgil, a pagan, may not enter Heaven, so Dante's fellow Florentine Beatrice takes over. Lawyers, each with a back-stage pass to the Cosmos, may go anywhere.

Posted by JD Hull at 11:11 AM | Comments (0)

December 03, 2007

Blawg Review #137 -- Blawg Review in Paradiso

This week's excellent Blawg Review is brought to you by Colin Samuels at Infamy or Praise. The Divine Comedy's third cantica, Paradiso, provides the theme for Blawg Review #137. Infamy or Praise also hosted an Inferno-themed Blawg Review #35 (2005 Blawg Review of the Year winner) and a Purgatorio-themed Blawg Review #86.

Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 10:26 AM | Comments (0)

November 26, 2007

Blawg Review #136

Peter Black at Freedom to Differ (an Australian blawg) hosts Blawg Review #136.

Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 10:40 AM | Comments (0)

November 19, 2007

Blawg Review # 135

Today is Equal Opportunity Day in the U.S., and Part 1 of Blawg Review #135 is hosted by Transgender Workplace Diversity. Part 2 will appear tomorrow, Transgender Day of Remembrance, at the Rainbow Law Center Blog.

Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 08:40 AM | Comments (0)

November 12, 2007

Blawg Review #134...

...is a real marathon, and it's up at the New York Personal Injury Law Blog.

Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 05:44 AM | Comments (0)

November 05, 2007

Blawg Review #133

See here for Blawg Review #133 at Chicago IP Litigation Blog, by David Donoghue.

Posted by Tom Welshonce at 11:46 AM | Comments (0)

October 29, 2007

Blawg Review #132

This week's edition of Blawg Review is brought to you by Grant Griffiths at Home Office Lawyer, and is a collection of posts related to solo practice.

Posted by Tom Welshonce at 09:32 AM | Comments (0)

October 25, 2007

CMU study: WAC? is among the 100 most informative blogs.

That's the word from a recent study by researchers at the Carnegie Mellon University School of Computer Science. Details about the study are here. Excerpt:

Rankings are based on the following question: Which blogs should one read to be most up to date, i.e., to quickly know about important stories that propagate over the blogosphere?

The methodology of the researchers has algorithms, numbers and charts in it. So we don't get it 100%--if we did, we would have gone to medical school. Anyway, we're honored. The full list is here.

Posted by Tom Welshonce at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

October 23, 2007

Business 2 Business: Blawg Review #131 and Carnival of the Capitalists #211

David Maister at Passion, People and Principles hosts Blawg Review this week, and focuses on the business of law. At the same time, the anonymous Editor at Blawg Review is the host of Carnival of the Capitalists, the longest running blog carnival.

Posted by Tom Welshonce at 05:00 PM | Comments (0)

October 22, 2007

Writing well: "Does it sing?"

See Pam MacLean's article, reprinted from The National Law Journal, "Longtime Rebel Alex Kozinski Prepares to Lead the 9th Circuit" at Law.com. In December, Kozinski will take the helm of the U.S. Ninth Circuit court of appeals. He respects and revels in sound and unpretentious legal writing.

Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 08:27 AM | Comments (0)

October 19, 2007

Renaissance Man

Despite his Harvard pedigree, David Giacalone, lawyer-writer-poet and gentle pundit, is always a class act. If you haven't visited his f/k/a... lately, please do so. We suggest starting with his recent "Gov. Spite-zer needs more EQ" for the house special: political commentary and law followed by wistful, seasoned haiku.

Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

October 15, 2007

From Middle Earth: Blawg Review #130 (X 2)

This week's Blawg Review is split in two in recognition of Blog Action Day (today) and Conflict Resolution Day (Thursday). The Northern Hemisphere is covered by Diane Levin's Online Guide to Mediation from Boston, Massachusetts, and the Southern Hemisphere by Geoff Sharp's mediator blah...blah... from Wellington, New Zealand. This is as fine a Blawg Review as you'll see.

Posted by Tom Welshonce at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

October 08, 2007

Blawg Review #129: Columbus Day

No. 129 is by David Harlow at HealthBlawg. Columbus Day: it's an Italian thing, sort of. But WAC? must give some discovery credits to native Americans, the Vikings and the Beatles.

Posted by JD Hull at 12:00 AM | Comments (0)

September 24, 2007

Blawg Review #127 - The Runaway Jury Review

Do yourself a favor and take a few minutes today to read Blawg Review #127, which is hosted at Anne Reed's Deliberations. This week's edition of Blawg Review presents the "17 Best Tips For Voir Dire".

Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 07:49 AM | Comments (0)

September 23, 2007

Tomorrow is Blawg Review #127: "Hey, Anne, we know David Lat, we went to the track with him once, and you're right, you are no David Lat, okay?"

With apologies to the late Lloyd Bentsen. Lat-envy. Some of us--not WAC?--have it. Even uber-Milwaukee trial lawyer and jury guru Anne Reed, at her fine Deliberations, has it: "I can't rhyme, my dog can't write, and I'm not David Lat -- so please, be kind". But, tomorrow, at BR #127, we think she'll do just fine. No need to be that kind.

Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 12:30 AM | Comments (0)

September 03, 2007

Promethean Anti-Slacker Blawg Review #124

Whoa. Blawg Review #124, the Labor Day Special, is up at George Lenard's Employment Blawg. It's really long and comprehensive, a super-human effort. But it's also Promethean (Prometheus (Προμηθεύς) means "forethought"). You won't see a better specimen of Blawg Review than this one in terms of planning, choice of content and writing. So Lenard's an especially thoughtful and hard-working fellow. If he doesn't get an end-of-year award from BR's mysterious editor for something, we will have our junior co-blogger and associate Holden Oliver jump from the 32nd floor of the US Steel Building on New Year's Day 2008. It's the least we could do in protest. And, besides, Holden's billable hours were down at 2,500 last year.

Posted by Tom Welshonce at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

August 31, 2007

Two posts you should read today

How to define your niche, at Jim Hassett's Legal Business Development.

Hey Mister, Can you spare a Dime....Or a Client?, at Tom Kane's Legal Marketing Blog.

Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 06:20 AM | Comments (0)

August 28, 2007

Leave Out the Parts that People Will Skip

Thanks to Pat Lamb for pointing out this post at BlogBloke.

Posted by Tom Welshonce at 05:01 AM | Comments (0)

August 27, 2007

Blawg Review #123

Blawg Review #123 is up at Todd Smith's Texas Appellate Law Blog.

Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 07:03 AM | Comments (0)

August 22, 2007

Blawg Review #122 - The Blawg Review Syllabus

See this week's edition of Blawg Review at David Gulbransen's Preaching to the Perverted.

Posted by Tom Welshonce at 06:20 AM | Comments (0)

April 30, 2007

Writing to and for clients.

Writing to clients is as important a thing that you do as a lawyer. Don't waste their time with long-winded lawyer-speak, which sophisticated clients dislike anyway and find amusing at best. Chicago trial lawyer Patrick Lamb discusses "Good Writing" at his highly-regarded In Search of Perfect Client Service. A short post, it ends:

What do our clients lack? Time. Don't waste it. Each word you write or utter should prove you value their time more than your own.

Posted by JD Hull at 11:45 PM | Comments (0)

December 20, 2006

In the Holiday Season, all creatures, even Legalese, are tolerated, loved.

With apologies to Clement Clarke Moore. From Singapore Law Blog: "Whereas, on or about the night prior to Christmas, there did occur at a certain improved piece of real property (hereinafter "the House") a general lack of stirring by all creatures therein, including, but not limited to a mouse." And then...

Posted by JD Hull at 02:58 PM | Comments (0)

December 07, 2006

Good Legal Writing, Plain and Simple.

Good sites on better writing for clients, lawyers and other humans can be found at The Estrin Report. Declare war on "aforesaid", "party of the second part", "oye, oye" and "COMES NOW THE PLAINTIFF, Purple Monkey Corporation, by and through its attorneys, and for its Motion, the following of which is an obsequious prayer, to this Most Honorable Court...." Just say it.

Posted by JD Hull at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

November 19, 2006

The War on Jargon, Legalese and Other Goofy Speech.

See Jay Shepherd at Gruntled Employees on the demise of legalese, cop babble, corporate-speak and the McDonaldsization of language: "Abandoning Jargon 'At A High Rate Of Speed'".

Posted by JD Hull at 12:25 AM | Comments (0)

October 29, 2006

Writing Well: LH Wordsmith

From Arnie Herz at Legal Sanity, see "The Next Wave of Legal Sanity", and learn about LH Wordsmith. This is Lori Herz's new company. Arnie and his wife Lori have stayed on the cutting-edge of client service, good lawyering and practice management ideas. Both are fine thinkers and writers. And only two or three writers in the law blog community are as good as Lori. Period. If you or your clients can get Lori and LH Wordsmith to help with writing, jump at the opportunity.

Posted by JD Hull at 01:15 AM | Comments (0)

October 22, 2006

Speaking of Candor...

Speaking of KFB, political incorrectness, wild men, anti-weenies and just saying it, from Salon, here's an interesting piece about Edward Abbey, "Where Have You Gone, Edward Abbey"? Abbey (1927-1989) was a writer, essayist, radical environmentalist and thinking person's loose cannon who lived in the desert American southwest. He made conservatives and liberals nervous, and many wanted him put to sleep. People confuse Abbey with Edward Albee, a still-living playwright, when they see his name in print. Different guy.

Let's note that back in the day, WAC? and his college girlfriend--now a lawyer but despite this is still creative and able to think, speak and write--were charter subscribers to Ms. magazine. Ms. is a real American achievement, even if you hate it. To the then 2-year old "Mizz" Abbey wrote in 1973: "Some of us menfolks here in Winkelman [Arizona] ain't too happy with this magazine of yourn". He didn't like Texas, either, writing in 1954:

...it combines the bigotry and sheer animal ignorance of the Old South with the aggressive, ruthless, bustling, dollar-crazy brutality of the Yankee East and then attempts to hide this ugliness under a facade of mock-western play clothes stolen from a way of life that was crushed by Texanism over half a century ago. The trouble with Texas: it's ugly, noisy, mean-spirited, mediocre and false.

Today, and more than ever, Salon Salon writer Philip Connors concludes, "America needs the ornery writer".

Posted by JD Hull at 12:26 AM | Comments (0)

October 14, 2006

Just say it: Why legalese is bad.

Posted by JD Hull at 03:46 AM | Comments (0)

September 25, 2006

Finally: "The 7 Habits of Bad Writing".

There are 7 habits of "Bad Writing". Do see Susan McDonald's post at Legal Research & Writing blog, as well as Roy Jacobsen's, both commenting on Matthew Stibbe's original post setting out the 7 types at Bad Language. "It was a dark and stormy night..."

Posted by JD Hull at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

August 12, 2006

Writing For Clients: "Just Say It" Part 2 - Redux

A vacation re-run, from December 2005. Patrick Lamb liked it at the time, so we figure it must have legs:

Back to thinking about legal writing for clients de-mystified (December 9 post), I wonder if you just start with writing to courts. After all, lawyers (including judges) have a certain way of talking to each other which often (a) really isn't needed and just alienates the rest of the thinking world, and (b) even makes it think we are talking to ourselves dementedly and self-absorbedly.

For example, from the first line of an actual federal district court complaint:

COMPLAINT

COMES NOW, the plaintiff, Upstart Corporation, by and through its attorneys, Adams, Bones & Carson, LLC, brings this cause of action against GiantMart, Inc. for violations of the Lanham Act, and for its reasons, files with this Honorable Court the herein Complaint, the following of which is a statement of its averments and allegations:

Why not instead just:

COMPLAINT

Plaintiff, Upstart Corporation, states:

Well, is it just me?

Dan Hull

Posted by Tom Welshonce at 02:36 PM | Comments (0)

May 15, 2006

Just Say It: Good Writing for Clients, and Other Humans.

We have just 12 rules and no rigid doctrines here. Nonetheless you may not use "heretofore", "said" as in "said widgets" or "COMES NOW" in this space. Ever. See "Writing for Clients - Just Say It": Parts I-IV here, here, here and here. This blog loves sane and people-oriented writing for clients, fellow counsel and courts alike. So does New Orleans lawyer Raymond Ward, the "Rainman", who writes Minor Wisdom, one of my favorite blogs. His site is full of good tips on many things, including good writing. See Ray's most recent posts "Naked briefwriting" and my favorite "All they really need to know about legal writing they learned in the 3rd grade".

Posted by JD Hull at 03:56 PM | Comments (0)

May 01, 2006

All Day on Law Day: Ben Cowgill's Blawg Review #55

Other than some good works by yours truly, and infrequently at that, one of the few good moments lately for a certain enduring university in Durham, NC is Blawg Review #55 by fellow alum Ben Cowgill at SoloBlawg.com. Is this Blue Devil talented and multi-faceted or what? An innovative and very interesting bonus is that Blawg Review #55, with its looking-for-America theme, runs all day, today, which is Law Day. Very clever. If you're a boomer, Ben's treatment may make you a little nostalgic.

Posted by JD Hull at 05:57 PM | Comments (0)

April 17, 2006

Blawg Review #53: Jim Maule, Tax Day and Taxation as Pervasive.

Blawg Review #53 by Villanova Professor James Edward Maule at MauledAgain is further support for my relatively new but ever-strengthening theory that tax lawyers after all really are creative--and have both depth and breadth, big personalities and writing ability as well. As a lawyer surrounded by serious tax talent, I posted in January with equal admiration about Paul Caron's TaxProf Blog. And once again, I just hope Julie, Janet, Al and Tom at our shop all read Jim's blog and his post today, too. Jim has written a balanced and just plain fun review of last week's better posts; he's another reason Blawg Review has become a must for even busy people to read.

Posted by JD Hull at 04:50 PM | Comments (0)

April 10, 2006

Blawg Review #52 - If this doesn't sell you on lawyers blogging, nothing will.

This week's Blawg Review is hosted by David Giacalone at his f/k/a. A lawyer who despite his D.C. antitrust and Harvard Law pedigree cares about good writing and does it very well, David in Blawg Review #52 reveals as usual the wondrous range of possibilities in substance, creativity and tone blogging can offer. And the guy has an opinion about a thing or two. As regular readers know, David's site, while substantive and sometimes edgy, mixes law, ethics, politics and poetry (haiku, and he even has a primer for the unwashed). Finally, f/k/a is always beautifully done. It won the 2005 Blawg Review Award for Creative Law Blog.

Posted by JD Hull at 07:34 AM | Comments (0)

April 03, 2006

Blawg Review #51's Writer is Nobody's April Fool.

George M. Wallace of Declarations and Exclusions, a/k/a A Fool In The Forest, did this week's Blawg Review with Blawg Review #51. We are lucky to have this literate, lyrical and whimsical host. Read Blawg Review #51 and then tell me if you still think lawyers are stiff, lame and uncreative. George's writing is Some Serious Dang Fun.

Posted by JD Hull at 03:40 PM | Comments (0)

3L Epiphany - Not Bad for a Buckeye.

As a basic Google search will tell you in a matter of seconds, 3L Epiphany, a blog by Ian Best, a third-year OSU law student and fellow Buckeye (ok, I claim a few jurisdictions), is both an inquiry into and catalog of the blawg phenom. 3LE has received a tremendous amount of kudos, press and hoopla lately--all well-deserved. See especially Ian's increasingly-famous Taxonomy of Legal Blogs. My comments: (1) this is both an impressive and interesting achievement and (2) why didn't I think of something this when I was 24?

Posted by JD Hull at 12:16 AM | Comments (0)

April 01, 2006

Never date anything April 1; never rely on anything dated April 1.

Which can be "Rule 13", a new client service rule. This causes obvious problems because of today's date. While you are thinking about this (which should not be for very long), note that A Fool in the Forest today has a special prequel to his Blawg Review #51.

J. Daniel Hull

Posted by JD Hull at 12:49 PM | Comments (0)

March 28, 2006

Blawg Review #50 Is Out, Out There and It Should Wake Us All Up.

The Dark Goddess of Replevin Speaks did Blawg Review #50 this week, and DGR, a/k/a Seattle's Ruth Laura Edlund, did not disappoint. This may be H.L Mencken with a law degree reincarnated in Grunge City. She afflicts the comfortable and comforts, well, the possessed, dispossessed and disinherited: anonymous bloggers, women at BigLaw (are humans just better off as men?), a dusty museum piece in our Constitution called the Establishment Clause and even the tender teachings of one's own flawed human soul. Some new sites here for me, including Howard Friedman's Religion Clause, and Jews on First. The Dark Goddess reminded me that blawging can be more than the same self-congratulatory conversation (i.e., "wankfest", if you're English) between the same people from the same country in the same profession on the same subjects. It made me want more--from her, other bloggers, myself. I think DGR is royally alienated and artfully pissed off, and she would probably not like me at all--and I like her that way. So see Blawg Review #50. For fun, check her post 2 weeks ago "Washington State Barbies". I admit that "Bellevue Barbie" is my type.

Posted by JD Hull at 09:14 PM | Comments (0)

March 20, 2006

Oklahoma, You're OK Department: Blawg Review #49 Is Out.

Good mornin' pards. From his Oklahoma-based Jim Calloway's Law Practice Tips Blog, Jim Calloway has authored Blawg Review this week and Blawg Review #49 is here. Jim's #49 is a comprehensive one--and covering some great blawgs/blogs which were new to me--by a man on the vanguard of legal weblogs since day one and who cares about the quality of the blawgosphere. Blawg Review itself is a useful digest service if you write and/or read blawgs but like me you struggle to keep up with new blogs and good posts. You can see the previous 48 reviews at Blawg Review.

Posted by JD Hull at 08:45 AM | Comments (0)

March 10, 2006

Patrick Lamb: In Search of Perfect Blawgs.

Visit Chicago litigator Patrick J. Lamb's new and improved site at In Search of Perfect Client Service. The man keeps raising the bar on everything. Pat makes it difficult for mere mortals and country lawyer types like me to keep up.

Posted by JD Hull at 12:19 PM | Comments (0)

March 06, 2006

Blawg Review #47 is Out, and...

...it's a thoughtful, even-handed, spirited and comprehensive scan of last week's posts by Unused and Probably Unusable.

Posted by JD Hull at 12:29 PM | Comments (0)

March 01, 2006

Return of Mark Beese, Leadership for Lawyers.

Mark Beese at Denver's Holland & Hart is back with Leadership for Lawyers after a 3-month blog-sabbatical. I for one am very happy about it. When we first launched this site, Mark noticed our efforts and its theme of boutique firms competing with much larger ones, and was encouraging early on. L4L is a first-rate site on lawyers as human beings, innovators and marketers, and on law firms as real laboratories for new ideas. Welcome back, Mark.

Posted by JD Hull at 01:42 AM | Comments (0)

February 27, 2006

Blawg Review #46

Sean Sirrine at De Novo has this week's Blawg Review. Along with a bunch of great links, Sean offers some helpful "tips" on keeping blogs fresh. Nice job, Sean.

Posted by Tom Welshonce at 12:19 PM | Comments (0)

February 20, 2006

Patrick Lamb: Blawg Review #45

My friend and frequent cyber-mentor Patrick Lamb at In Search of Perfect Client Service did the honors this week for Blawg Review #45, which reviewed last week's posts. As usual, Pat does a superb job.

Pat and I are both practicing business litigators approximately the same age. We both were raised in the Midwest, were high-school debater types and have strong dashes of Gaelic DNA. We are both serious students of client service and law practice management. So over a year ago, when I was reviewing blawgs to see if I wanted to launch one myself, I was particularly interested in and struck by Pat's hugely popular blog. Then I thought it was the best legal weblog. I still think it's the best. We are all lucky to have the guy around.

Posted by JD Hull at 08:48 PM | Comments (0)

February 18, 2006

A Little Help From The Canadian Bar Association: "Plain Language Legal Writing".

The Canadian Bar Association's CBA Practice Link, which I check from time to time, has been running a 3-part series on "Plain Language Legal Writing" adopted from articles by Cheryl Stephens. Take a look at Part III - Mastering Modern Legal Correspondence. Previously posted Parts I and II, "Writing as a Process" and "Writing to Be Understood", are now off-limits to non-CBA members but worth obtaining, so I think I'll try. But Part III on correspondence is detailed, generally applicable to any good writing, well-thought out and useful to anyone who shares this goal: put our embarrassingly medieval legal writing tradition out of its present misery (i.e., kill it), lovingly leave it to language and legal historians, and turn it into unpretentious English which clients and other lawyers will actually want to read. Bravo.

Posted by JD Hull at 01:12 PM | Comments (0)

February 17, 2006

Two Great Blogs By Non-lawyers We Can Actually Use.

The first is I [Heart] Tech by Adriana Linares--a Florida-based tech consultant specializing in lawyers, an Earth Mother for the digital age, and clearly one of the sassiest yet most feminine human beings on the planet. Adriana is also CEO of LawTechPartners. And she can write. There were several women like Adriana at Duke when I was a student there. Most of them studied hard, were envied and admired from afar, and studiously avoided me. Adriana is a favorite with Hull McGuire because in exchange for this post she has promised to refer us at least 50 IP projects and Lanham Act cases a year through 2010. She loves lawyers.

The second is Nathan Burke's marketing and branding site lawfirmblogging.com. Based in Boston, Nathan and his company Business Seeds Marketing design web sites for lawyers and mortals, help lawyers market generally and on the web, and are consultants on branding and identity. Earlier this month Nathan had the sand to challenge my writing-off of all logos for all law firms for all time. And he may have gotten me to change my mind. Nathan, too, writes well. He is apparently amused by lawyers but, like Adriana, is compassionate toward us without making us feel bad about ourselves. Nathan promised me nothing in exchange for this post.

Hire these people.

Posted by JD Hull at 01:59 AM | Comments (0)

February 13, 2006

2 Very Cool New Things: Blawg/Bob Review #44 and Exemplar Law Partners.

The first is Blawg Review #44 (now a/k/a "Bob Review") by West Virginia-based health care lawyer Bob Coffield at Health Care Law Blog. Very nicely done. And funny. The second is the debut of Exemplar Law Partners: "No hourly bill. No hourly bull." ELP is a new firm delivering a mix of corporate law services internationally and which Robert Ambrogi, Patrick Lamb and Michelle Golden have been bringing to everyone’s attention over the past few days. Guys, we are brothers. I am 100% supportive and curious at a level 11 on a 1-10 scale; just tell me how you do/will do it. Call me, e-mail me, comment or post.

Posted by JD Hull at 07:55 PM | Comments (0)

February 06, 2006

Blawg Review #43--And Check Out Act XII, Scene 2...

Bravo! Blawg Review #43 is out--this week by Boston-based and well-read Diane Levin at Online Guide To Mediation. Her theme is Shakespeare. I appreciate any lawyer with a liberal arts degree who can write, especially a literary one who went to Amherst. I now live in Southern California, a part of the country where many of us think Othello is a cologne, Puck a Hollywood agent, Falstaff an imported beer and Amherst a type of expensive German cheese. Can't beat the weather, though.

Posted by JD Hull at 01:17 PM | Comments (0)

January 31, 2006

Writing For Clients--Just Say It-Part 5. "Write Like You Talk"!

In December I tried to write four posts on saner writing: parts One, Two, Three--and finally Part Four, which set out the same 8 rules for sane writing which appears in our firm's Practice Guide for associates and paralegals. At the time I was flattered that Ray Ward at Minor Wisdom and Patrick Lamb at In Search of Perfect Client Service commented on these posts favorably because I know they both care about straightforward and sane legal writing. Long after finishing these posts, I noticed a wonderful post on marketing by Michelle Golden last October at her Golden Practices site. One of her writing rules: "Write Like You Talk. That's how people like to read. Even if you are writing to the most educated target market - keep it simple. The best test of writing is how it sounds when you read it out loud." I liked that.

Much writing by even the most talented lawyers, and especially by those just starting to practice, is characterized by an awkward and often wordy stream-of-consciousness quality in which the lawyer-writer is apparently "talking to himself/herself." This happens--especially on briefs or longer documents--because the writer is so familiar with the topic that he or she lapses into an archaic "code" and starts, in effect, to mutter on paper. If you just say "it" out loud in "people" language, often right away you'll hear a clearer and shorter sentence you can use. And you'll have a sentence an unwashed reader can pick up on and understand quickly and appreciatively. "Writing like you talk" is an effective way to get yourself back into gear when you're writing and you've lost your path. Thank you, Michelle.

Posted by JD Hull at 03:10 PM | Comments (0)

January 25, 2006

Tom Collins Has Got a Bunch of Things Right.

Not only does Tom Collins at MorePartnerIncome have by far the best name for any blawg I've seen, earlier this week he may have captured what blogging is all about in a moving post called "Blogs That Improve Law Firm Performance". If you haven't read this entire post, you should. It is more than the title implies. Genuine, humble and thoughtful--made me want to keep doing this. It's right here.

Posted by JD Hull at 09:09 PM | Comments (0)

January 20, 2006

Paul Caron, Assault of The Tax People & "The Top 10 Tax Stories of 2005".

I'm not one of them. But our law firm has several fine and very hard-working corporate tax and transactional lawyers. The tax people--Julie, Tom, Janet and Al--are curious and amused about this What About Clients? blog I've been writing since August 2005. Don't get me wrong. They're supportive (especially Tom). I am their friend, partner, co-worker--but I'm also a litigator and lobbyist who has lots of noisy, ambitious and aggressive friends and contacts--and not too many of them are tax or M&A people. My friends are mostly litigators/barristers, GCs, entrepreneurs, journalists, company officers, politicians, Congressional staffers and a few environmental and IP people.

But I'm here to tell my tax lawyer friends and co-workers that apparently there are lots of tax blawgs. And there's at least one that's well-written enough so that even I can understand it. It's edgy and funny, too. Nearly two years ago Paul Caron, a tax law professor at the University of Cincinnati Law School, launched TaxProf Blog. Tax profs from several fine law schools regularly contribute to it. The Wall Street Journal has called it a "must-read blog", and it's actually fun to read. Earlier this month, TaxProf Blog had a great post on the Top Ten Tax Stories of 2005. Near the end of that post, there are links to nineteen (19) tax blogs--10 by practitioners, 7 by professors and 2 by think tanks on tax policy. Nineteen.

Posted by JD Hull at 06:11 PM | Comments (0)

January 04, 2006

Proofreading--Simple But Hard

I'm very happy that Pat Lamb had a short post on proofreading yesterday. Invoices--which if done correctly are a great way to communicate what you've done for a client AND a marketing tool--are of course one set of documents we all need to get right. Clients can be expected to read them. But generally we don't talk about proofreading enough. It amazes me that badly proofread pleadings and letters still emanate from some of the best American and European law firms. It mars and even desecrates otherwise good and sometimes brilliant work.

Mistakes will happen in law practice in any event--but the idea is to minimize them, and especially those you can control. Proofreading errors are avoidable, even under the gun, if you make ardor in doing it a habit. My recurring nightmare is that the GC of my best client says: "If at $___ an hour you guys can't spell, believe me, we can find a law firm tomorrow morning that can." For that reason, as mentioned in the last "Just Say It" post on writing for lawyers, Rule 5 (of 8) in the good writing section of our firm Practice Guide is:

5. Proofread, proofread, proofread. (NOTE: We have a written policy on proofreading you must actually sign.) Pretend that, for every typo you miss or grammatical error you make, you have to buy Dan Hull as many Heinekens as he could drink in one evening in his late twenties on St. Patrick's Day in the most expensive Capitol Hill watering hole he and his friends could find.

Together with writing simply and clearly, I can't imagine a more important habit for any lawyer to develop. Misspelling, omitted or misplaced words and off-the-charts bad grammar are often important errors which blot out otherwise good work--and ones we can control. It's that simple.

Posted by JD Hull at 08:17 AM | Comments (0)

January 03, 2006

Blawg Review #38 and WSJ

Speaking of blawg reviews, here's something fun. And intelligent. See yesterday's post from Evan Schaeffer's Legal Underground with resolutions for better blog writing.

And the Wall Street Journal has a new law blog written by lawyer Peter Lattman. Based on the first 2 days of posts, Lattman's site promises to deliver the 2 things a blog really needs: (1) thoughtful content; and (2) good writing.

Posted by JD Hull at 12:05 PM | Comments (0)

January 01, 2006

Best 2005 Blawgs--Upward and Onward

Everyone loves blog awards. Or they should. I'm a believer in the utility of envy. Here, for instance, a flash, in my case, of "what-about-my-award?" can push also-rans or neophytes to greater heights. Since I'm new to this, I'll just watch for a while as I figure out who's who--who writes the better blawgs, and who has the legitimacy to give the awards. In the meantime, who can argue with any award to a site as consistently insightful and intelligent as, say, Patrick Lamb's "In Search of Perfect Client Service"? Or with awards to the blogs of Tom Kane or Tom Collins?

Awards for blawgs. It does seem like kind of a free for all--with self-appointed academies here and there. Which is fine for now. But can we at least give the awards a name? And, please, something other than the "Blawgies"...that's all I ask.

Posted by JD Hull at 09:29 PM | Comments (0)

December 19, 2005

Writing For Clients--Just Say It-Part 4 of 4-Final

Five years ago, Julie McGuire, a CPA and tax lawyer with whom I co-founded my firm in 1992, and I wrote a short but easy-to-read book entitled Hull McGuire Practice Guide* (*or how to become a productive associate or paralegal). We wanted to write down our best "how to practice law" tools--without which, in our view, your hard-won Order of the Coif or Law Review pedigree from, say, Hastings, Michigan or Yale will mean zilch and zero by the time you're 35. We apparently were successful in making the Practice Guide entertaining; people genuinely enjoy reading it. We revise it once a year. Just a couple of days ago, while reviewing the book for its annual update, I noticed that the Guide's section on "Writing" says it all for us, especially the final item, Point 8:

"1. Use short "people" words whenever possible. Like words a trial lawyer might use in addressing a jury. Use short sentences. Be precise but informal. Don't try to sound too much "like a lawyer": "whereupon", "hereinafter," "aforementioned", etc. No one is impressed or enlightened by these terms. Just say it.

2. Economize on words. Make every word count. Don't repeat yourself.

3. Be accurate and truthful--yet friendly, personable and optimistic in your writing style. Clients know they have issues and problems. There's no need to further agitate and depress them.

4. There are no perfect or sole answers to 95% of legal issues. So offer a few alternatives, take a position and even break new ground. You need a reasonable and logical position which makes good business sense and provides an affirmative recommendation, plan of action or conclusion. Whatever you do, do not only tell the client what it cannot do under the law. Tell our client what it can do, too.

5. Proofread, proofread, proofread. (NOTE: We have a written policy on proofreading you must actually sign.) Pretend that, for every typo you miss or grammatical error you make, you have to buy Dan Hull as many Heinekens as he could drink in one evening in his late twenties on a St. Patrick's Day in the most expensive Capitol Hill watering hole he and his friends could find.

6. Citations of sound authority should be used--but used sparingly. No string cites. Use the The [Harvard] Blue Book--A Uniform System of Citation or The University of Chicago Manual of Legal Citation ("The Maroon Book"). The citator is your friend--not your enemy.

7. When you write, get to the point up front and summarize it right away. And then expand on it. Don't make the client, other lawyer or judge guess about what your conclusion will be 5 pages away.

8. Take a stand. Tell the client what you think the client should do. Our client reps are business people or lawyers. A good way to make them mad is to not tell them what you think they should do. If your advice is sound, and followed, but not successful, don't sweat it. Business clients take calculated risks every day--and you can, too. Pretend here you are not the side-stepping risk-averse lawyer they may have trained you to be, and take responsibility for some of the failure. But do make a decision, recommend something concrete--and take the hit if you are wrong."

Posted by JD Hull at 11:34 AM | Comments (4)

December 16, 2005

Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point Holds Lessons in Both Marketing and Writing

Practicing law is demanding and difficult. Many lawyers I know either have no time to read, or are too burned out from reading to read outside the law. I have experienced both problems. Nonetheless, this holiday season I find myself giving clients, business people and other lawyers copies of The Tipping Point--How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, Malcolm Gladwell's 2000 bestseller. In a word, it's about "buzz"--how and why some ideas gather currency and speed and others don't. If you own or operate a business, and need to market either products or services, spend $10 for the paperback and find out whether you and your contacts are connectors, mavens or persuaders. You could build a marketing plan around this book.

If you are a lawyer, there's a second reason to read the book. Gladwell (a non-lawyer) sets an example for good writing. A relatively young man with already-elite journalism credentials, he could have still written a great book using intelligent but busier, Buckley-esque language and sentence structure. Instead, and with few deviations, Gladwell chose to write in simple prose which communicates. In writing this book, he was challenged--as lawyers are daily challenged--to identify and explain arcane or complicated ideas and then apply them to real life. But Gladwell accomplishes that with straightforward "people" language. This book is both exciting and a pleasure to read.

Posted by JD Hull at 10:39 AM | Comments (0)

December 14, 2005

Writing For Clients--Just Say It-Part 2...Can We Start With Courts?

Back to thinking about legal writing for clients de-mystified (December 9 post), I wonder if you just start with writing to courts. After all, lawyers (including judges) have a certain way of talking to each other which often (a) really isn't needed and just alienates the rest of the thinking world, and (b) even makes it think we are talking to ourselves dementedly and self-absorbedly.

For example, from the first line of an actual federal district court complaint:

COMPLAINT

COMES NOW, the plaintiff, Upstart Corporation, by and through its attorneys, Adams, Bones & Carson, LLC, brings this cause of action against GiantMart, Inc. for violations of the Lanham Act, and for its reasons, files with this Honorable Court the herein Complaint, the following of which is a statement of its averments and allegations:

Why not instead just:

COMPLAINT

Plaintiff, Upstart Corporation, states:

Well, is it just me?

Posted by JD Hull at 10:27 AM | Comments (0)

December 13, 2005

Legal Blogosphere Has Something For Everyone

Today it struck me how interesting and exciting it is to be part of the new--well, new to me--legal blogosphere when I ran into a blawg called Florida Lawyers Property Tax Appeals. (Try to say that 5 times real fast.) Now that is a specialty blawg.

I am far from a tax lawyer--in fact, for some reason many tax lawyers are jumpy and irritable around me--but FLPTA is easy to use and read, and that impressed me. I could even understand a lot of it. My firm does tax work, and I wondered if there were even more tax blogs closer to some of the tax practice we do. So I have an eye out. Maybe I can help our tax people.

Blawgs are coming from everywhere on all subjects. See, e.g. www.Blawg.org. And we are part of something: a fast-evolving comprehensive living library. Not bad.

Posted by JD Hull at 05:19 PM | Comments (0)

December 09, 2005

Writing For Clients--Just Say It-Part 1

Writing for clients, or taking legal jargon and legal-ese out of client documents, is an important topic for me and my firm. Tom Welshonce, an associate in Pittsburgh and contributor to this blog, and I hope to devote time to the subject over the next few weeks. My experience is that the vast majority of clients--from individuals to sophisticated in-house counsel--don't want to read lengthy, convoluted lawyer prose in the documents they read, and that they especially don't want to see this stuff in communications to them.

I think they want you to “just say it.” Clients appreciate it and will even favorably comment when you do that. Just saying it means three things: (1) get to the point up front in the communication (e.g. in a letter, in the first sentence, if possible) regardless of its length, (2) explain what you mean step by step, with citation of any authorities, and (3) above all, use "people" words which communicate with both precision and clarity. Next week: some examples.

Posted by JD Hull at 02:30 PM | Comments (0)