Writing for Law Practice by Elizabeth Fajans 60's Mary R Falk and Helene S. Shapo. When I saw that an alum had written a textbook on legal writing, I wondered (not for the first time) am I nuts? What have I gotten myself into? Turns out that as usual, I was into something interesting. I read it and am so glad that I did. You may not believe me, but this was a very entertaining read and certainly much more about good writing than about dread legalese. Those aspiring to a legal profession who did not master the basics in English Comp will have a second chance to avoid the pitfalls of dangling modifiers and confusing punctuation. In addition, they will have opportunities to practice the full range of written instruments lawyers are called upon to draft every day.
I was struck by how much of law is writing. Lawyers are called on to write motions, complaints, defenses, letters (many letters), office memos, briefs, and rules. Legislators depend on them to set down what might become a bill or a law. Anyone who has bought a piece of property knows how necessary a lawyer is in creating a contract. In all these documents, words matter.
What gave this book life were the cases. Behind every legal decision are real human beings. We see a dedicated social worker struggling to maintain her dream job when the boss (in this case, a minister) sexually harasses her, and the church board is timid in backing her up. We see a couple whose first child had a disability caused by a recessive gene in both parents, a gene that they knew nothing about. Their complaint is against the doctor who wrongly diagnosed the child so that they had no opportunity to make an educated decision about having a second child. I knew immediately where I stood in these matters, but lawyers have to understand how to come down on either side. One case involved perjury. I was fascinated because the case in which the accused person testified was one I remember very well. (Though the names were changed, I recognized it right away).
Students who use this textbook will get the message that they must be measured in all their writing, that carelessness might come back to haunt them, and that research into the facts is indispensable. Even more important, they learn that their success hinges on honing their skills of persuasion.