16 Legal Writing Tips for Powerful, Persuasive Legal Writing: How to Write an Effective Legal Argument

As a lawyer, you know that the ability to write effectively is a key skill. In order to persuade judges and jurors, you need to be able to write with clarity and power.

In this blog post, we will discuss 15 tips for writing an effective legal argument. Following these tips will help you produce powerful legal writing that is sure to make an impact.

Table of Contents

16 Legal Writing Tips for Powerful, Persuasive Legal Writing

Tip #01: Start with a Strong Introduction

Your introduction is the most important part of your argument. It is the first thing that the judge or jury will read, and it needs to be strong in order to capture their attention. Make sure to introduce your argument clearly and succinctly, and make sure to state why you are making the argument. You should also include a preview of what you will be discussing later in your argument.

Tip #02: Use Clear and Concise Language

When writing an argument, it is important to use clear and concise language. This will help ensure that your point is understood by all who are reading it. Do not use complex words or legal jargon unless absolutely necessary – keep things simple so that everyone can understand what you are trying to say!

Tip #03: Use Short Sentences and Paragraphs

When writing an argument, it is important to use short sentences and paragraphs. This will help ensure that your point is understood by all who are reading it. Do not use complex words or legal jargon unless absolutely necessary – keep things simple so that everyone can understand what you are trying to say!

Tip #04: Write in the Active Voice

The active voice makes for more powerful writing than the passive voice. When possible, try using the active voice instead of passive constructions (e.g., “The judge ruled against us” rather than “We were ruled against by the judge”).

Tip #05: Use Strong and Impactful Language

When writing an argument, it is important to use strong and impactful language. This will help your argument stand out from the rest and make a lasting impression on the reader. Use powerful words that convey your message clearly and effectively.

Tip #06: Make Your Argument Easy to Follow

Your argument should be easy to follow from beginning to end. Make sure to structure it in a logical way, and use headings and subheadings to break up your content into manageable chunks. This will make it easier for the reader to understand what you are saying, and they will be less likely to get lost along the way.

Tip #07: Be Clear and Concise

It is important to be clear and concise when writing an argument. This means stating your point clearly and without any ambiguity. It also means using short sentences and paragraphs, so that the reader can easily follow your train of thought.

Tip #08: Use Supporting Evidence

When making an argument, it is important to back up your points with evidence. This will help strengthen your case and make it more persuasive. Make sure to cite reputable sources in order to support your points.

Tip #09: Be Thorough and Comprehensive

When writing an argument, it is important to be thorough and comprehensive. This means discussing all aspects of the issue at hand, from beginning to end. Do not leave anything out – this will only weaken your argument.

Tip #11: Use Quotations judiciously

When quoting someone else, make sure that you use it sparingly. Quoting someone else can help support your argument, but only if it is done correctly. Make sure to properly attribute the quote to its source, and make sure that it supports your point.

Tip #12: Stay on Point

It is important to stay on point when writing an argument. This means discussing only the issue at hand, and not straying off topic. If you start discussing irrelevant points, you will lose the reader’s attention and weaken your argument.

Tip #13: Be Concise and To-the-Point

When writing an argument, be concise and to-the-point. This means stating your point clearly without any ambiguity or unnecessary words. It also means using short sentences and paragraphs, so that the reader can easily follow your train of thought.

Tip #14: Use Headings and Subheadings

When writing an argument, it is important to use headings and subheadings where appropriate. These will help structure your content into manageable chunks, which makes it easier for the reader to understand what you are saying. They also look more professional than just having one big block of text on a page!

Tip #15: Write With Confidence

When writing an argument, be confident in what you are saying. This means being clear about why you believe a way and not being afraid to express your opinion. It also means using strong language, so that the reader knows you mean what you say.

Tip #16: Proofread Your Work

When writing an argument, make sure to proofread your work before submitting. This will help ensure that there are no spelling or grammatical errors in it, which could weaken your case if they were present when it went to court. It also gives you a chance to check for any mistakes that might have been made during the writing process.

What Writing Style is Used in Legal Writing?

Legal writing style is formal, objective and concise. It uses clear, simple language to communicate with the reader.

The goal is to present an argument in a way that is easy to follow and understand. Lawyers must be precise when stating their point, and use evidence to support their argument.

Quotations should be used sparingly, and only if they support the main points of the argument.

Headings and subheadings are also helpful in organizing content and making it easier for the reader to follow. Finally, legal writers should always write with confidence – this helps convey the message clearly and effectively.

Use this as a checklist to make sure your legal argument is effective:

  • State your point clearly and without any ambiguity.
  • Use supporting evidence.
  • Be thorough and comprehensive in your discussion.
  • Stay on point.
  • Use headings and subheadings where appropriate.
  • Write with confidence.
  • Proofread your work carefully before submitting it.

Major Reference Styles in Legal Writing and Research

When writing a legal document, you must use an accepted format for citations. There are three primary styles used in legal writing:

  • The Bluebook,
  • The ALWD Citation Manual, and
  • The Harvard Law Review Association’s Style Guide.

The Bluebook is the most commonly used citation style in the United States. It was developed by lawyers and professors at Columbia University and is published by the Harvard Law Review Association. The Bluebook contains rules for citing case law, statutes, court decisions, administrative rulings, books, articles, and other sources.

The ALWD Citation Manual was created to simplify the rules of the Bluebook. It was written by two law professors at Yale University and is published by Aspen Publishers. The ALWD Citation Manual is designed for legal writers and researchers who want to use a citation style that is easy to learn and follow.

The Harvard Law Review Association’s Style Guide is based on the Bluebook, but contains additional information about citations to Internet sources, unpublished works, and other sources. It was written by the staff of the Harvard Law Review Association.

Which reference style you choose is up to you. However, it is important to be consistent in your citations throughout your document.

Citing Cases Correctly

When citing a case in your legal writing, you must include certain elements: the name of the court, the year of the decision, and the volume number of the case reporter. You must also include either page numbers or paragraph numbers if you are citing to a specific passage in the case.

Citing a US Supreme Court Decision

If you are citing to a U.S. Supreme Court decision, you must include the name of the petitioner and respondent, as well as the docket number of the case.

Here is an example of how to cite a case:

Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 48 (1954).

In this example, Brown v. Board of Education is the name of the case, 347 U.S. 48 is the year of the decision, and 19th ed. is volume number of the case reporter. Page numbers would be included if you were citing to a specific passage in the opinion, while paragraph numbers would be included if you were citing to a specific passage in the opinion.

Citing a Case from an Official Reporter

To cite a case from an official reporter, you must include the name of the court and year of decision. The page numbers are not required but may be included if you are citing to a specific passage in the opinion.

Here is an example of how to cite a case:

United States v. Jones, No. 06-CR-0274 (N.D. Ill.).

In this example, “United States v.” refers to volume number while “06-CR” refers to Reporter series number and “274” (“J”) is case number within that series; “(N .D .Ill.)” identifies jurisdiction where docketed or decided if not obvious from report abbreviation; “[defendant]” is party name against whom suit was filed, which is why it’s important to know abbreviations for court names.

Citing a Case from an Unofficial reporter

To cite a case from an unofficial reporter, you must include the name of the court and year of decision. The page numbers are not required but may be included if you are citing to a specific passage in the opinion.

Here is an example of how to cite a case:

People v. Rios, No. 00-CF-2227 (Cook Cty., Ill., Cir. Ct.).

In this example, “People v.” refers to volume number while “00-CF” refers to docket number within that volume; “(Cook Cty ., Ill.)” identifies jurisdiction where decided if not obvious from report abbreviation; “[defendant]” is party name against whom suit was filed.

Citing a Case from an Electronic Database

When citing a case from an electronic database, you must include the name of the court and year of decision. The page numbers are not required but may be included if you are citing to a specific passage in the opinion.

Here is an example of how to cite a case:

United States v. Jones, No. 06-CR-0274 (N .D. Ill.).

In this example, “United States v.” refers to volume number while “06-CR” refers to Reporter series number and “274” (“J”) is case number within that series; “(N .D .Ill.)” identifies jurisdiction where docketed or decided if not obvious from report abbreviation; “[defendant]” is party name against whom suit was filed, which is why it’s important to know abbreviations for court names.

Citing a Case Published by Multiple Reporters

To cite a case that has been published in multiple reporters, you must include the name of the first reporter and year of decision. The page numbers are not required but may be included if you are citing to a specific passage in the opinion.

Here is an example of how to cite a case:

United States v. Jones, No .06-CR-0274 (N .D .Ill.).

In this example, “United States v.” refers to volume number while “06-CR” refers to Reporter series number and “274” (“J”) is case number within that series; “(N .D.Ill.)” identifies jurisdiction where docketed or decided if not obvious from report abbreviation; “[defendant]” is party name against whom suit was filed, which is why it’s important to know abbreviations for court names.

Citing a Statute

When citing a statute, you must include the name of the state and year of publication. The page numbers are not required but may be included if you are citing to a specific passage in the statute.

Here is an example of how to cite a statute:

Illinois Compiled Statutes § 510/0.01 (2010).

In this example, “Illinois Compiled Statutes” refers to the title of the statute while “§ 510/0.01” refers to the section number within that title; “(2010)” identifies year of publication.

Citing a Law Review Article

When citing a law review article, you must include the author’s name, title of the article, and name of the journal. The page numbers are not required but may be included if you are citing to a specific passage in the article.

Here is an example of how to cite a law review article:

David Siegel, The New Wigmore: A Treatise on Evidence § 11-18 (West 2010).

In this example, “David Siegel” refers to author’s first and last name while “The New Wigmore: A Treatise on Evidence” refers to title of article; “$ 11-18” refers to pages cited within that article; “(West 2010)” identifies publisher and year of publication.

Citing a Law Review Case Note

When citing a law review case note, you must include the author’s name, title of the note, and name of the journal. The page numbers are not required but may be included if you are citing to a specific passage in the note.

Here is an example of how to cite a law review case note:

David Siegel & Elizabeth Smith, Case Note: In re A .B .C., 127 Harv. L. Rev .1549 (2014).

In this example, “David Siegel & Elizabeth Smith” refers to authors’ names while “Case Note: In re A .B.C.” refers to title of note; “$ 127 Harv. L. Rev .” refers to pages cited within that note; “(2014)” identifies year of publication.

Citing a Secondary Source

When citing a secondary source, you must include the author’s name, title of the book or article, and publisher. The page numbers are not required but may be included if you are citing to a specific passage in the book or article.

Here is an example of how to cite a secondary source:

James Weinstein, Legal Writing: How to Write CLEARLY, POWERFULLY, and Persuasively (Aspen Publishers 2009).

In this example, “James Weinstein” refers to author’s first and last name while “Legal Writing: How to Write CLEARLY, POWERFULLY, and Persuasively” refers to title of book; “(Aspen Publishers 2009)” identifies publisher and year of publication.

What Makes a Good Citation in Legal Writing and Research?

Now that you have seen some examples of how citations work, let’s look at what makes a good citation.

A good citation should be clear and concise so that the reader can find it easily in any law library or online database for legal research. A good citation also avoids using abbreviations when possible because these make citations difficult to understand without knowing their meaning first hand which is why many people prefer full text versions over cited ones with lots of abbreviation usage throughout them . The following are some common abbreviations used within legal writing:

  • · N.Y. Times v . Sullivan, 376 US 254 (1964)
  • · Roe v Wade 410 U S 113 1973
  • · Brown v Board of Education 347 US 48 (1954)
  • · Miranda v Arizona 384 US 436 (1966)

You can see how these abbreviations make citations difficult to understand without knowing their meaning first hand which is why many people prefer full text versions over cited ones with lots of abbreviation usage throughout them . The following are some common abbreviations used within legal writing:

N=North America, V = Verdict, F and/or Con Law = Constitutional Law; P&P or POE = Procedure & Practices, Eq law=Equity Legislation , Taxation Laws etc. All other terms should be self-explanatory if you want more information about those subjects contact any university’s library for assistance on finding books that provide explanations about specific topics that interest you.

Just remember not to rely too much on abbreviations because these make citations difficult to understand without knowing their meaning first hand which is why many people prefer full text versions over cited ones with lots of abbreviation usage throughout them.

Common Mistakes in Legal Writing and Research

When it comes to legal writing, there are a few common mistakes that many lawyers make. In this section, we will discuss some of the most common errors and how to avoid them.

Mistake # One: Not Knowing Your Audience

One of the most common mistakes in legal writing is not knowing your audience. When you are drafting a legal argument or brief, you need to keep your audience in mind at all times. You need to tailor your argument to fit their needs and understanding. If you try to address too broad an audience or use complex language, you will lose your readers quickly.

To ensure that you are addressing your audience correctly, take the time to understand who they are. What is their level of legal knowledge? What are their interests? What is the most important thing to them in this case? Once you have a good understanding of your audience, you can tailor your argument to fit them perfectly.

Mistake # Two: Not Organizing Your Argument Properly

Another common mistake in legal writing is not organizing your argument properly. When you are drafting a legal document, it is important to be clear and concise. You need to make sure that your argument flows logically from beginning to end. If you jump around or introduce new ideas partway through your document, you will confuse your readers and lose their attention.

To organize your argument effectively, start by outlining what you want to say. Group related points together and order them logically. Make sure all of your evidence and reasoning is clear and easy to follow. If you can keep your argument organized, you will be able to make a strong case for your position.

Mistake # Three: Failing to Use Persuasive Language

In legal writing, it is important to use persuasive language. When you are trying to win an argument, you need to use words that will convince your readers of your point of view. If you are too vague or indirect, you will not be able to persuade anyone.

To use persuasive language effectively, start by making strong statements. Use concrete examples and evidence to back up your points. Be assertive in your writing and avoid using qualifiers such as “maybe” or “perhaps.” Stay focused on the issue at hand and avoid getting sidetracked by irrelevant details.

Mistake # Four: Using Legal Jargon Without Explanation

Another common mistake in legal writing is using legal jargon without explanation. In order to be persuasive, you need to make sure that your readers understand what you are saying. If they do not know the meaning of a word or phrase, they will have a hard time following your argument. To ensure that all of your readers can follow along easily, provide definitions for any unfamiliar words or phrases.

Mistake # Five: Not Proofreading Your Work

In legal writing, it is important to proofread your work to make sure that there are no mistakes. If you do not take the time to proofread your documents, you will lose credibility with your readers. 

To make sure that all of your writing is error-free before submitting it for publication or use in court, run a spell check and grammar check on every document that you write. You may also want to have someone else reading over what you wrote as well just so they can catch any errors that might be missed by spellcheck alone.

Mistake # Six: Verbocity – Using Too Many Words

In legal writing, it is important to use as few words as possible. If you are not careful about how many words you use in a sentence or paragraph, it will be hard for your readers to follow along with what you’re saying. The more concise and clear your documents are, the easier they will be to read and understand by all involved parties. 

To make sure that all of your documents are easy on the eyes of those reading them over time, keep each piece under 500 words when possible while still getting the point across without any confusion whatsoever (although sometimes this may not always work out perfectly depending on what needs explaining).

Mistake # Seven: Not Using Active Voice

In legal writing, it is important to use active voice rather than passive voice. When you are using passive voice, the subject of your sentence comes before the verb and there is no object in between them as well as being a generic subject (examples include “The document was signed by all parties” or “The witness testified under oath”). 

By having this structure set up, it makes things easier for everyone involved at various stages throughout each case where information must be relayed from one person to another without any confusion whatsoever on what exactly needs doing next so that nothing gets missed when moving onto step two after completing step one successfully. It’s also much more efficient since these documents tend not to get lost either way and can be easily accessed when needed again later down the road.

Mistake # Eight: Not Using Well-Researched Evidence

When you are writing a legal document, it is important to use evidence that has been well researched. 

You need to make sure that your sources are reliable and up-to-date if possible before presenting them as such within any statement or argument being made by anyone involved at all times throughout each case where information must be relayed from one person to another without any confusion whatsoever on what exactly needs doing next so nothing gets missed when moving onto step two after completing step one successfully because, these documents tend not get lost either way which makes things easier for everyone involved at various stages throughout each case where information must be relayed from one person to another.

Mistake # Nine: Not Formatting Documents Correctly

When you are writing a legal document, it is important to format it correctly. This means using the correct font, margins, and spacing. If your documents are not formatted correctly, they will be difficult for your readers to read and understand. To make sure that your documents are easy on the eyes of those reading them over time, use a standard font like Times New Roman or Arial, set your margins at one inch all around, and use double-spacing between lines.

Mistake # Ten: Not Using Consistent Language

In legal writing, it is important to use consistent language. This means using the same tense throughout your document and not switching between past, present or future tenses. 

For example, if one sentence of yours begins with “The witness testified under oath,” then all sentences in that paragraph should begin with a similar phrase such as “Mr./Mrs./Ms… testified….” To make sure you are always using consistent language when writing any kind of legal document for use within court proceedings at some point down the road later on after being submitted by someone else involved who also happens to be related somehow either through marriage or other ties like their job title would indicate too since these documents tend not get lost either way. 

Try to keep each piece under 500 words when possible while still getting the point across without any confusion whatsoever (although sometimes this may not always work out perfectly depending on what needs explaining).

Mistake # Eleven: Not Proofreading Documents Carefully

Before submitting a legal document, it is important to proofread it carefully. This means checking for typos, mistakes in grammar and spelling, and formatting errors. 

If your documents are not properly proofread, they will be difficult for your readers to understand and could potentially damage your case. To make sure that your documents are error-free, triple check them for mistakes and have someone else do a final read-through as well.

Mistake # Twelve: Not Paying Attention to Detail

In legal writing, it is important to pay attention to detail. This means making sure that your documents are thorough and accurate. It is also important to be precise in your language. 

To make sure that you are paying attention to detail when drafting legal documents, take the time to read over your work several times and proofread it carefully.

Mistake # Thirteen: Failing to Follow Court Rules

When drafting legal documents, it is important to familiarize yourself with the court rules that will apply to your case. Failure to follow these rules could result in your document being thrown out of court. To make sure that you are following court rules correctly, consult a lawyer or review the court rules for your jurisdiction.

Mistake # Fourteen: Making Assumptions About the Reader’s Knowledge

When writing a legal document, it is important to remember that the reader may not have any legal knowledge. As such, you should always explain terms and concepts that the reader may not be familiar with. To make sure that your documents are easy to understand for all readers, take the time to define any terms or concepts that may be unfamiliar to them.

Mistake # Fifteen: Failing to Answer Questions Fully

When responding to a legal question, it is important to answer it fully and completely. Failure to do so could result in your opponent using your response against you in court. 

To make sure that your responses are thorough and complete, take the time to research the question thoroughly and draft a response that addresses all aspects of it.

You may avoid making these mistakes by using the following legal writing tips:

Conclusion

Legal writing is an essential skill for lawyers. In order to persuade judges and jurors, you need to be able to write with clarity and power. By following these 15 tips for writing an effective legal argument, you will be able to produce powerful legal writing that is sure to make an impact. For more information on legal writing, please consult a lawyer or review the court rules for your jurisdiction. Thank you for reading!

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