Advanced Legal Writing


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This seminar addresses the necessary elements of a paper written for publication in a law journal.

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  • Biggest problem with articles written for publication– implications are unclear or weak.
  • Establish the issuesPresent the rule(s)Apply the rules to your issuesConclude
  • Types may also be thought of as Purposes of establishing Authority Purposes of Attribution To continue the discussion
  • Advanced Legal Writing

    1. 1. The Dalhousie Writing Centre<br />Article WritingAdvanced Legal Research<br />
    2. 2. Refine ideas into a thesis<br />Find an interesting problem(a gap, an ambiguity, an unresolved issue, something unsettling, a point of tension).<br />Present your proposed solution, (new legislation, a particular application, an explanation) in a single sentence.<br />
    3. 3. “Such-and such a law is unconstitutional.”<br />“The legislature ought to enact the following statute.”<br />“Properly interpreted, this statute means such-and-such.”<br />“My empirical research shows that this law has unexpectedly led to…”<br />“Viewing this law from a [feminist/Asian studies/Catholic/economic] perspective leads us to conclude that the law is flawed and should be changed in such-and-such a way.” (Volokh, p. 248)<br />
    4. 4. Why should we care about this idea?<br />What effect would the rule you propose have?<br />What effect would a contrary rule have?<br />Is the effect you seek achievable or worth the cost?<br />What consequences are likely to result from the rule you propose?<br />Will the reader come away from the paper with something that is professionally valuable?<br />Develop the Implications<br />
    5. 5. Choose a structure that reflects your purpose and be able to justify why the order works.<br />I . Introduction (5-10% of the whole)<br />II. Body (25-40% per section)<br /> A. Background and Legal DoctrinesB. Proof of ClaimC. Proof of Claim<br />III. Conclusion (5-10%)<br />Structure<br />
    6. 6. I ssues<br />R ule<br />A pplication<br />C onclusion<br />Identify the legal issues raised by the problem and resolve these by finding and then applying relevant legal rules.<br />Structure<br />
    7. 7. Show that there is a problem.<br />Let the reader know the destination (thesis) and emphasize the implications of your claim.<br />State your intended route (the elements of your analysis in the order you will develop them).<br />Introduction<br />
    8. 8. The Body of the Article:Background Facts and Legal Doctrines<br />Background information should be relevant.<br />Synthesize precedents in the doctrinal line; do not summarize each one.<br />
    9. 9. Remember that the point of legal writing is to persuade your reader of your thesis.<br />Demonstrate that your claim is correct and the best way of solving the problem.<br />Focus on your argument. Acknowledge the other side but do not let it have centre stage.<br />The Body of the Article: Proof of Claim<br />
    10. 10. Analysis should be in component parts; the structure should reflect the components.<br />No more than three main sections.<br />Sections should be balanced.<br />Adopt a structure that allows you to integrate the facts, court cases, and policies.<br />Section titles should orient the reader.<br />Section titles should make reference to the aspect of your argument addressed in that section.<br />The Body of the Article: Proof of Claim<br />
    11. 11. Often remind the reader of your thesis. Tie the details clearly to the purpose.<br />Review structure as you write. Reformulate thesis if necessary.<br />Connect the discussion to the broader academic debate. Make the importance of your claim clear.<br />The Body of the Article: Proof of Claim<br />
    12. 12. Restate the claim.<br />Summarize key points.<br />Tell the reader why your claim is useful and important. <br />Emphasize the implications.<br />Conclusion<br />
    13. 13. Find Your Own Voice<br />Don’t imitate other styles.<br />Discover your natural strengths as a writer.<br />Address weaknesses in your writing that undermine your strengths.<br />Maintain a tone of measured rationality.<br />
    14. 14. Use well-placed, short, simple sentences for strong points.<br />Tighten sentences by eliminating passive voice and excess language.<br />Think of punctuation marks as units of expression.<br />Style<br />
    15. 15. Follow the forms in the 7th ed. McGill Law Journal Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation: <br />A uniform system allows for efficient and reliable recognition of legal sources.<br />Proper citations and references give you credibility and present you as someone who can participate in the ongoing academic debate.<br />Footnotes and Bibliography<br />
    16. 16. Three types of information that require a footnote:<br />References<br />Facts<br />Ideas<br />Footnotes<br />
    17. 17. Refer to a case, law, book, article, treaty, or other documentation to enable the reader to locate the source of your information.<br />Enable readers to retrace your step and to decide for themselves whether the analysis is correct.<br />Allow later readers to build from your argument without having to redo the preliminary work.<br />Reference Footnotes<br />
    18. 18. Provide further information for the reader<br />Establish the information within the broader informational context<br />Fact Footnotes<br />
    19. 19. Establish your claim and analysis within the broader intellectual debate<br />Present an alternative line of argument or tangents<br />Ideas Footnotes<br />
    20. 20. Bradford, C.S. (1994). As I lay writing: How to write law review articles for fun and profit. Journal of Legal Education, 44(1),13-34.<br />Mock, W. (2006). When a rose isn’t ‘arose’ isn’t arroz: A guide to footnoting for informational clarity and scholarly discourse. International Journal of Legal Information, 34 (87-97).<br />References and Recommended Reading<br />
    21. 21. Samuelson, P. (1984). Good legal writing: Of Orwell and window panes. University of Pittsburgh Law Review, 149. Retrieved from<br />Volokh, E. (1998). Writing a student article. Journal of Legal Education, 48(2), 247-272.<br />References and Recommended Reading<br />
    22. 22. The Legal Writing Teaching Assistant: The Law Student’s Guide to Good Writing<br /><br />Useful links<br />