One skill which most lawyers should improve, is writing clearly and simply. Clients will be thankful. Clarity and easy reading may stop them from suing you.
Any time is a good time to improve writing skills. This is an especially good time, because of covid-19 isolation. You have probably communicated less face-to-face recently, and more in writing.
Reread some of your communications, especially those over a month old, and those sent to non-lawyers. Select your spouse or a trusted sympathetic relative or friend, and ask her or him to read them as well.
Copy or scan each communication. Score each one for these 3 qualities:
- ease of reading
- preventing misunderstanding
And maybe one more quality:
Then go back to see which particular passages in each communication could use improvement. Flag those. Watch out for double negatives, and the passive voice. Ask your trusted reader how to improve the communications. But do not at once start correcting words or phrases. First see whether rearranging, or rewriting afresh, would improve the communication.
If length or arrangement needs fixing, take a fresh sheet and rewrite the entire communication, or at least key paragraphs of it. Try to write simply. Do not try to be impressive or formal. To shorten the communication, draft in pen or pencil. Do not use a computer unless you are a slow typist.
– Hon. J.E. Côté
The Commentaries are intended to call the attention of lawyers to promising or threatening developments in the law, in civil procedure, in developing their skills, or simply to describe something curious, funny or intriguing.
Justice Côté recently retired from the Court of Appeal of Alberta and currently acts as an arbitrator, mediator, or referee under Rules 6.44 and 6.45 of the Alberta Rules of Court.
He may be contacted through Juriliber at email: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 780-424-5345.