Law in Contemporary Society
Purpose: I have reread and taken notes on Diana V. Pratt’s Legal Writing: A Systematic Approach. Unlike when I read it first in the fall, I have found it very helpful for editing my papers (both for the class and for work). While editing, I have found that I have made many of the mistakes that I had assumed I would never make (poor topic sentences, for example). I have summarized some of Pratt’s main points here with the intention of giving both the class and myself a handy list of things to look for while editing. While the information is seemingly obvious, look to your own writing to see how closely it conforms to Pratt’s advice. Feel free to edit or add to it!

Note: Much of her advice (such as her tips on sentence structure) is repeated throughout the book. I have summarized chapter 7 and chapter 8 because I have found them to state most succinctly the advice that she offers.

Chapter 7: Organizing Discussion Section

1. Choose how you will order your issues and sub-issues (“gross organization”)

∙Four organizational principles that can be used to order issues:

a. Order of importance: Most to least important (reader pays most 
attention to info that comes first)
b. Logical order: (ex: discuss damages only after you discuss 
c. Most complete relief: begin with claims that offer best 
chance of relief
d. Substantive issues before procedural (exception: when 
procedural dictates outcome, such as a statute of limitations issue)

2. Use IRAC to organize within issues

I. Introduce the issue
R. When stating rule, work from most general statement to most specific
   a. Statutory language (quote it)/General legal standard
   b. Court definition of the general legal rule
   c. General rule derived by inductive reasoning/synthesis 
(explain the cases and reasoning that led to synthesis)
   d. illustrations of application (fact specific holdings)
   -if possible or necessary: create spectrum of authority
   -start with illustration that reaches the result that 
you predict for your memo
   -then contrast with the opposite illustration
A. Application
   -major premise: general rule (for arson charge, D must 
have had a motive)
   -minor premise: court application (the court held that 
D in x-case had a financial motive for setting the fire)
   -analogy: analogize from application to current case (D, 
like the D in x-case, stood to gain financially)
   C. Conclusion

Chapter 8: Writing the Discussion Section

1. Thesis paragraph includes

a. overall statement of thesis (reader wants to test your
 conclusion throughout memo)
b. provide context
c. road map (identify the statutes, but usually not the cases)
d. state conclusions (and, sometimes, very brief reasoning)

2. Quoting/paraphrasing guidelines

-More than 50 words -> block quote
-Quote: language from constitution/statute/regulation; 
when you wish to emphasize the text
-Paraphrase: language from cases to give rule/holding/reasoning/policy
   -transitioning from judge’s writing to yours may be distracting
   -but, quote if the judge states rule w precision
   -whenever you quote/paraphrase, cite
      -pincite if you quote/paraphrase language from a case

3. Paragraph structure

-Keep them short and direct (paragraph greater than 3 quarters
 of page may be too long)
-topic sentence explains purpose of the paragraph
-organize info in logical order
a. each succeeding sentence should provide additional 
information arranged with increasing degrees of specificity
b. each begins with a reference to the preceding sentence 
and ends with new information

4. Writing sentences (readers understand sentences better when…)

a. Short/direct sentences
b. Use subject-verb-object order
c. Keep subject and verb close together 
(eliminate intrusive words)
d. Compound sentences: use parallel construction
e. Active voice (5 instances where passive voice 
can/should be used)
f. Positive sentences (rather than negative)

-- AlexBuonocore - 03 Jul 2012


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r2 - 22 Jan 2013 - 19:58:21 - IanSullivan
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