Yesterday, Professor Linda Edwards, the Robert F. Boden Visiting Professor of Law, spoke to the Marquette Legal Writing Society about her work and interest in legal writing.
This semester Professor Edwards is teaching a course on the great briefs. Each week students study a brief to determine what made the brief successful—what made it sing, as she said. Among her favorite briefs are the petitioner’s briefs in Miranda v. Arizona and in Bowers v. Hardwick. Professor Edwards recommended reading and studying good briefs as a way for an advocate to advance his or her own persuasive writing. Aside from the briefs she mentions in her book Readings in Persuasion: Briefs that Changed the World, she recommended reading anything written by the Solicitor General’s office and anything written by any of the Supreme Court justices as examples of great legal writing.
Professor Edwards also noted that really good briefs speak to the reader and that a legal writer’s own voice should come through the brief. While structure is important, she said, formulaic writing of briefs is not effective. She cautioned against doggedly following a set of received “rules” rather than crafting a document for a particular reader or situation. Good legal writing doesn’t have to sound lifeless or mechanical, she said.
The mission of the Marquette Legal Writing Society is to foster discussion about legal writing. Elizabeth Oestreich is the president of this year’s organization.