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A Guide to Mastering Legal Writing


A good argument wins cases and builds your reputation as a persuasive and credible legal professional.

Legal writing is crucial for defense attorneys and in-house counsel to present cases and influence outcomes effectively. The ability to craft persuasive arguments not only strengthens your advocacy but also enhances your professional reputation. And while learning these skills may be especially vital for lawyers new to the practice, more experienced attorneys will also benefit from a quick review of these core concepts.

In this blog, we will provide practical tips to enhance your legal writing. These tips will help you make strong arguments that are effective in court or meetings.

Know Your Audience

Understanding your audience is crucial in legal writing. When speaking to a judge, jury, or executives, adjust your arguments to match their knowledge and viewpoint. Use language that is accessible to non-legal professionals without sacrificing the depth required for legal accuracy. Read this article from for more guidance on Legal Writing Principle 8: Know The Audience.

Clearly Define Your Objective

Before you start writing, articulate the primary objective of your argument. Having a clear goal will improve your writing when attempting to achieve certain outcomes in a legal case. These outcomes include getting a case dismissed, winning a summary judgment, or reaching a settlement. State your goal early on and use it as a roadmap throughout your document.

Need more guidance specifically on legal memos? This post from Point First can help.

Develop a Compelling Introduction

A strong introduction sets the tone for your entire argument. Clearly state the issues, frame the legal context, and highlight the key facts favoring your position. Engage your audience from the beginning, making them eager to delve deeper into your argument.

Structure Matters

Organize your arguments logically to make them more digestible and impactful. Use headings and subheadings to create a clear structure, and consider the following outline as a starting point:

  1. Introduction
  2. Statement of Facts
  3. Legal Analysis
  4. Counterarguments
  5. Conclusion

This structure allows your readers to follow your reasoning easily and reinforces the coherence of your overall argument. Using a legal document template is a good way to maintain consistency and ensure you include all key elements.

Articulate a Strong Thesis

Craft a clear and concise thesis statement that captures your main argument. This statement should be the thread running through your entire document, providing a roadmap for your reader. Avoid ambiguity and make your stance clear.

Support with Authority

Back up your arguments with relevant legal authority, such as statutes, case law, and legal precedents. Cite recent and persuasive authorities to bolster your position. Ensure your citations are accurate and well-researched, enhancing the credibility of your argument. Helpful legal research tools include Fastcase, CourtListener, Caselaw Access Project, and more.

If you’re a member of DRI, you can also access LegalPoint. This robust resource provides DRI members with exclusive access to a vast online library of DRI articles, books, and materials. Members can search thousands of documents and filter them by practice area and resource. In addition to searching all of DRI's LegalPoint content, you can also access Defense Library Series (DLS) books separately and review the table of contents and individual chapters.

Use Persuasive Language

Choose your words carefully to convey authority and conviction. Eliminate unnecessary legalese and use plain language when possible. Craft sentences that are concise, impactful, and leave no room for manipulation.

Read this Medium article for more tips on persuasive writing: A Lawyer's Guide to Persuasive Writing: 5 Rules to Live by.

Address Counterarguments

Anticipate opposing viewpoints and address them head-on. Acknowledge weaknesses in your position and provide strong rebuttals. This demonstrates your thorough analysis of the topic and enhances your credibility by showcasing your understanding of the law.

Edit and Revise

Great legal writing is often the result of careful editing and revision. Review your work for clarity, coherence, and consistency. Check for grammatical errors and ensure your arguments flow logically. Consider seeking input from colleagues to gain different perspectives, or get assistance from technology such as Grammarly.

Becoming skilled at legal writing, especially making convincing arguments, takes time and effort. By understanding your audience, clearly defining objectives, structuring your arguments effectively, and using these practical tips, you can elevate your legal writing skills and enhance your effectiveness as a civil defense attorney or in-house counsel. A good argument wins cases and builds your reputation as a persuasive and credible legal professional.

Want to publish your legal writing with DRI? Visit our Publications page for details on sharing your expertise with colleagues worldwide.

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