1. Bad legal writing hurts clients, often irrevocably. By contrast, writing well helps clients, often immeasurably, and it empowers and fulfils the lawyers who possess that ability.
2. Writing well is not a God-given talent. One learns to write well just as one acquires other skills: isolating the principles of the craft, studying the work of experts, practicing, and receiving high-quality feedback.
3. Legal writing is more learnable than most skills because the central principles of the craft are so well established.
4. Lawyers should study the work of the most talented members of the profession. That work is readily available.
5. Great progress can occur from completing short exercises. These exercises also develop a critical skill that is uniformly overlooked in the field of legal writing: writing fast. Lawyers also benefit enormously from seeing how their colleagues write about similar problems.
6. Too much legal-writing instruction is focused on minor issues and questions about what not to do. The fear of erring then paralyzes many attorneys, becoming a goal unto itself, this fear distracts lawyers from the real objective: obtaining great results for clients. It is far easier to catch a typo in the editing process than to notice that a great argument was overlooked.
7. Lawyers, especially associates, need to understand the role they play in serving clients. For instance, associates at large firms should focus on making their drafts easy to edit, not on producing “perfect” drafts. This controversial principle will make the role of partners far easier, and it has profound implications for what tips and techniques a firm should emphasize to its associates.
8. Lawyers may be extremely good attorneys but may be unable to explain to associates what they are doing or why it works. Legal writing specialists can explain how to produce good writing—not merely explain what a good finished product should look like.
9. Working with coaches on one’s craft should be a point of pride, just as top quarterbacks, tennis champions, baseball sluggers, golfers and opera stars work with specialized coaches.
10. Associates will become great legal writers faster if they are strong legal researchers, talented legal strategists, skilled persuaders, and experienced enough in their field to understand how a particular challenge fits into a case or deal.