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Legal Writing for the Courts: An Annotated Bibliography

Updated by:

Liza Rosenof
Research / Emerging Technologies Librarian

September 2014

Resources are grouped into areas of emphasis. Some resources deal with multiple areas of legal writing, and are listed in more than one area. Electronic resources are listed at the beginning of each section. Unless otherwise noted, all books are on the third floor.

Mechanics
Argument
Style
Writing and Editing Process
Legal Briefs
Samples

Mechanics

 

"Mechanics" includes issues of technical correctness, such as grammar, punctuation, syntax, and capitalization.

Purdue University Online Writing Lab
Geared towards entering college students, this site may be remedial, but it is a handy reference guide. Lessons in grammar, spelling, and punctuation include exercises and answer keys for extra practice.

United States Government Printing Office Style Manual
Intended as a guide for government offices preparing items for publication, this manual promotes “economy of word use” and seeks to standardize treatment; the PDF version includes images, such as a page of editor’s marks in Chapter 1. Chapter 3 on capitalization and Chapter 8 on punctuation are also useful.

Guide to Grammar and Writing
This community college guide to writing and grammar tackles the subject at different levels--words and sentences, paragraphs, and essays and research papers. The Words and Sentences section addresses parts of speech and other mechanics. The Essays and Research Papers level addresses writing process considerations.

Merriam Webster Online Dictionary & Thesaurus
This online dictionary includes definitions, pronunciations, etymologies, and audio links for pronunciations. The search function will suggest alternative spellings if your search does not match any words in the dictionary. Hyperlinks in the thesaurus allow for quick expansion of a search. Links to subscription products, including the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary and the Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged, are also available.

The Writing Center (Harvard University), Tips on Grammar, Punctuation, and Style
This handout from the Writing Center at Harvard University provides common-sense advice for grammar, punctuation, and style.

Gertrude Block, Effective Legal Writing: for Law Students and Lawyers (5th ed., Foundation Press 1999). Reserve KF 250 .B56 1999.
This text provides detailed rules for punctuation, pronouns, and sentence structure; and uses examples from legal writing. It also contains a detailed table of contents and an index.

Veda R. Charrow et al., Clear & Effective Legal Writing (4th ed., Aspen 2007). Reserve KF250 .C45 2007.
This work deals with cases and statutes, and their relation to briefs and other legal documents. The appendix provides an overview of English sentence structure, and is useful for spotting and correcting common problems of structure and grammar. Other sections cover context, organization, clarity, arguments, and editing.

Alan L. Dworsky, The Little Book on Legal Writing (2d ed., Fred B. Rothman & Co 1992). KF250 .D88 1992.
The conversational tone of this book makes it less intimidating than some other writing guides. It addresses the proper format for quotations and citing of authorities, as well as the structure of effective arguments. While it is not indexed, it does contain a detailed table of contents.

Anne Enquist & Laurel Currie Oates, Just Writing: Grammar, Punctuation and Style for the Legal Writer (3rd ed., Aspen 2009). KF250 .E57 2009. CD 7495.
This new edition of a classic manual dicussses grammar, punctuation, and style for the legal writer.

Martha Faulk & Irving M. Mehler, The Elements of Legal Writing (Macmillan 1994). KF250 .F38 1994.
Inspired by demands of the plain-language movement, this guide contains 135 rules of grammar, punctuation and writing style. Explanations and examples are drawn from legal  documents. The book also includes a glossary of common grammatical terms and an extensive bibliography.

Bryan Garner, The Elements of Legal Style (2d ed., Oxford University Press 2002) Reserve KF250 .G37 2002.
This book addresses addresses issues of grammar and punctuation, while emphasizing clarity of writing.

Bryan Garner, The Redbook: A Manual on Legal Style (2d ed., West 2006). Reserve KF250 .G375 2006.
This manual is a basic desk reference on the style and mechanics of writing, with emphasis on pleadings, motions, and briefs. A general index covers topical areas, and a word index covers use of particular words and phrases. The manual also includes an extensive section on “troublesome” words--those frequently confused, misused, or misspelled--explaining their proper use and meaning.

Thomas R. Haggard, The Lawyer’s Book of Rules for Effective Legal Writing (Fred B. Rothman 1997). KF250 .H34 L38 1997.
This brief pamphlet offers 44 rules for simplicity, clarity, and brevity in writing.

James D. Maugans, The Grammatical Lawyer II (ALI-ABA Comm. On Continuing Professional Education 1996). KF250 .M38 1996.
This book contains reprints of short articles on grammar and usage from The Practical Lawyer’s “Grammatical Lawyer” column. An index allows it to be used as a reference tool.

Austen L. Parrish & Dennis T. Yokoyama, Effective Lawyering: A Checklist Approach to Legal Writing and Oral Argument (Carolina Academic Press 2012). Law Reserve KF250 .P37 2012.

Helene S. Shapo, Marilyn R. Walter, Elizabeth Fajans, Writing and Analysis in the Law (West 2013). KF250 .S5 2013.                                                                                                      This book covers the writing process when doing legal analysis. 

 

Argument

 
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This section covers various types of legal arguments, considering elements of logic and rhetoric.

Mary Beth Beazley, A Practical Guide to Appellate Advocacy (3d ed., Aspen Publishers 2010). Reserve KF251 .B42 2010.
This guide deals with the structure of effective legal arguments. Technical matters such as persuasive punctuation, rhetoric and paragraph structure are also included.

Gertrude Block, Effective Legal Writing: for Law Students and Lawyers (5th ed., Foundation Press 1999). Reserve KF 250 .B56 1999.
This guide reviews basic logic and argument structure, along with the use of analogy, synthesis, and hypothetical situations in legal writing.

Veda R. Charrow et al., Clear & Effective Legal Writing (4th ed., Aspen 2007). Reserve KF250 .C45 2007.
This book addresses the reading and writing of legal documents. Selected topics include deductive reasoning, syllogism, faulty logic and writing specifically tailored to a particular audience.

Bradley G. Clary, Primer on the Analysis and Presentation of Legal Argument (West 1992). KF251 .C55 1992.
This work discusses the analysis of a legal problem and provides a methodology for writing arguments; it addresses function, concepts of persuasion, and elements and techniques of argument. While this is a primer written for moot court participants, it is useful as a basic refresher for practitioners.

Alan L. Dworsky, The Little Book on Legal Writing (2d ed., Fred B. Rothman & Co 1992). KF250 .D88 1992.
This conversational guide’s section discussing argument structure advises writers to focus their arguments, emphasizing the strongest, and to tailor their documents to the level of court they are addressing. A detailed table of contents allows users to find a specific topics easily.

Michael R. Fontham, Michael Vitiello, & David W. Miller, Persuasive Written and Oral Advocacy In Trial and Appellate Courts (2d ed., Aspen 2007). Reserve KF251 .F658 2007.
Approximately half of this guide is devoted to written advocacy, addressing the content of a legal argument and techniques of persuasive writing. Oral arguments, and trial and appellate proceedings are also detailed.

Bryan Garner, The Winning Brief (2d ed., Oxford U. P. 2004). Reserve KF251 .G37 2004.
An expansion of a CLE course, this guide offers 100 “tips” in ten areas of brief-writing, and the reasoning behind each.  It also features a brief index, and several examples of both good and poor legal writing.

Michael D. Murray & Christy H. DeSanctis, Adversarial Legal Writing and Oral Argument (Foundation Press, 2006). KF250 .M87 2006.
A beginner's guide to the strategies of adversarial writing, this guide includes information on the structure and purposes of trial motions and appellate briefs.

Richard K. Neumann, Jr., Legal Reasoning and Legal Writing: Structure, Strategy, and Style (6th ed., Aspen 2009). Reserve KF250 .N48 2009.
An in-depth treatment of the use of authority, facts, and precedent forms the basis of this guide's approach to writing persuasive arguments. Examples detail different strategies presented, and exercises reinforce their use. Sample documents are also provided.

Laurel Currie Oates & Anne Enquist, The Legal Writing Handbook: Analysis, Research, and Writing (5th ed., Aspen Publishers 2010). Reserve KF250 .O18 2010.
This text discusses the creation of effective sentences, paragraphs, and documents, including transitions, eloquence, and precision. It is indexed and contains a glossary identifying usage terms. Special advice for writers of English as a second language (ESL) is included.

Teresa J. Reid Rambo & Leanne J. Pflaum, Legal Writing by Design: A Guide to Great Briefs and Memos (Carolina Academic Press 2001). Reserve KF250 .R355 2001.
This overall guide to legal writing is practitioner-focused and written in a conversational style. It examines types of legal reasoning, the use of cases, and the logical organization of the legal document. Examples are provided throughout, and the volume is thoroughly indexed.

Jill J. Ramsfield, Culture to Culture: A Guide to U.S. Legal Writing (Carolina Academic Press 2005). KF250 .R354 2005.
Designed to meet the needs of foreign-born writers in the American legal profession, this text details the intricacies of forms of argument used in United States legal writing. A very analytical approach is supplemented by annotated sample documents.

Wayne Schiess, Better Legal Writing: 15 Topics for Advanced Legal Writers (Wm. S. Hein 2005). Reserve KF250 .S347 2005.
This work deals with issues of persuasiveness in writing and the structure of an argument. Topics range from sentences and basic organization, to analysis and persuasive organization of sections of a document.

Louis J. Siroco, Jr., & Nancy L. Schultz, Persuasive Writing for Lawyers and the Legal Profession (2d ed., LexisNexis 2001). KF250 .S54 2001.
This manual addresses elements of persuasion, including style, the use of authority, the construction of policy and equity arguments, and potential pitfalls. The discussion also includes the ethics of advocacy.

Robin Wellford Slocum, Legal Reasoning, Writing, and Other Lawyering Skills (3d ed., LexisNexis 2011). Reserve KF250 .S568 2011.
This guide discusses the differences between fact-centered and law-centered arguments, including policy and statutory analysis. It also includes techniques for addressing adverse authority.

Irving Younger, Persuasive Writing (Professional Education Group 1990). KF250 .Y68 1990.
This work is comprised of reprints from the ABA Journal’s “Persuasive Writing” column. It addresses issues of style, mechanics and language, including tone and persuasion. Though brief, these articles are well-written, and serve to reinforce principles of good writing.

Style

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Style deals with the flow, rhythm, and general feel of written works.

Drafting Legal Documents, Principles of Clear Writing
The Office of the Federal Register provides these principles in its guide to writing legal documents.

Strunk’s Elements of Style (at Bartleby.com: Great Books Online)
This 1918 classic, the first edition of what is now known as Strunk and White, provides basic rules of usage and composition. A hyperlinked table of contents allows a reader to jump to a section of interest; navigation links facilitate browsing. It is also searchable.

Frank E. Cooper, Writing in Law Practice (2d ed., Bobbs Merrill 1963). KF250 .C66 1963.
This lengthy text examines the use of language in the practice of law, with emphasis on appropriate tone and precision. Both good and less well-written examples are provided for specific points. A detailed table of contents and an index allow the user to find appropriate sections of text.

Anne Enquist & Laurel Currie Oates, Just Writing: Grammar, Punctuation, and Style for the Legal Writer (3rd ed., Aspen 2009). KF250 .E57 2009. CD 7495.
The bulk of this guide addresses the effective structuring of documents, paragraphs, and sentences for eloquence and persuasive effect. A final chapter deals with the particular needs of non-native speakers of English in legal writing.

Martha Faulk & Irving M. Mehler, The Elements of Legal Writing (Macmillan 1994). KF250 .F38 1994.
Inspired by the demands of the plain-language movement, this guide contains 135 rules of grammar, punctuation and writing style. Explanations and examples for these rules are drawn from legal documents.  The book also contains a glossary of common grammatical terms and an extensive bibliography.

Judith D. Fischer, Pleasing the Court: Writing Ethical and Effective Briefs (Carolina Academic Press 2011). Reserve KF250 .F53 2011.
This brief guide to style in court documents emphasizes accuracy, clarity, and proper citation. An Appendix of brief guidelines and exercises reinforces the message of the text, and makes this useful for the time-crunched practitioner or student.

Bryan Garner, The Elements of Legal Style (2d ed., Oxford University Press 2002) Reserve KF250 .G37 2002.
With an emphasis on plain language, Garner advises the writer to develop a personal style, reduce unnecessary “legalese” and simplify writing.

Bryan Garner, The Redbook: A Manual on Legal Style (2d ed., West 2006). Reserve KF250 .G375 2006.
This desk reference thoroughly covers matters of writing style in legal documents, including pleadings, motions, and briefs. It is well indexed, with a general index for topical areas and a word index for treatment of particular words and phrases.

Bryan Garner, The Winning Brief (2d ed., Oxford U. P. 2004). Reserve KF251 .G37 2004.
An expansion of a CLE course, this guide offers 100 "tips" in ten  areas of brief-writing, and the reasoning behind each. It also features a brief index and several examples of both good and poor legal writing.

Tom Goldstein & Jethro K. Lieberman, The Lawyer’s Guide to Writing Well (McGraw-Hill 2002). KF250 .G65 2002.
This work discusses editing for clarity and precision. It also includes examples, problems, and solutions.

Thomas R. Haggard, The Lawyer’s Book of Rules for Effective Legal Writing (Fred B. Rothman 1997). KF250 .H34 L38 1997.
This brief pamphlet offers 44 rules for simplicity, clarity, and brevity in writing.

Terri LeClerq & Karin Mika, Guide to Legal Writing Style (5th ed., Aspen 2011). Reserve KF250 .L3913 2011.
This guide is primarily devoted to organization, sentence structure, and word choice; brief attention is paid to mechanics, including punctuation. The books includes exercises throughout.

Teresa J. Reid Rambo & Leanne J. Pflaum, Legal Writing by Design: A Guide to Great Briefs and Memos (Carolina Academic Press 2011). Reserve KF250 .R355 2011.
This overall guide to legal writing is practitioner-focused. It focuses on achieving brevity, simplicity, and impact in written documents. Examples are provided throughout, and the volume is thoroughly indexed.

Wayne Schiess, Better Legal Writing: 15 Topics for Advanced Legal Writers (Wm. S. Hein 2005). Reserve KF250 .S347 2005.
Schiess, an advocate of the plain English movement, advises writers to avoid unnecessary legalese, organize at the sentence, paragraph and document levels, and focus on the readability of documents. This guide offers nontraditional approaches to legal writing.

Richard C. Wydick, Plain English for Lawyers (5th ed., Carolina Academic 2005). Reserve KF250 .W9 2005.
This guide for practitioners emphasizes clarity of style, focusing on use of the active voice, careful word choice and arrangement. It provides useful examples throughout, and is indexed.

Irving Younger, Persuasive Writing (Professional Education Group 1990). KF250 .Y68 1990.
This work is comprised of reprints from the ABA Journal’s “Persuasive Writing” column. It addresses issues of style, mechanics and language, including tone and persuasion. Though brief, these aritcles are well-written, and serve to reinforce principles of good writing.

 

Writing & Editing Process

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This section covers the writing process from start to finish, i.e., getting started, the actual writing process, editing and proofreading, and "polishing" the final product.

Proofreading
This handout from the University of North Carolina’s Writing Center distinguishes between editing (for elements of argumentation and style) and proofreading (for mechanical correctness), suggesting tips and techniques for both.

Principles of Composition
Handouts describing different aspects of the writing process, including techniques to overcome writer’s block and editing suggestions, are available.

Proofreading Strategies
This handout, offered by Purdue University, offers a checklist of common types of errors along with strategies for effective proofreading.

Revising the Draft; Editing the Essay, Part 1; Editing the Essay, Part 2
These Harvard Writing Center Handouts, taken together, provide principles and practical suggestions for improving a drafted document

Mary Beth Beazley, A Practical Guide to Appellate Advocacy (3d ed., Aspen Publishers 2010). Reserve KF251 .B42 2010.
In addition to addressing the writing process, drafting and the use of persuasion, this guide discusses editing and polishing the final written product.

Anne Enquist & Laurel Currie Oates, Just Writing: Grammar, Punctuation and Style for the Legal Writer (3d ed., Aspen 2009). KF250 .E57 2009. CD 7495.
A brief introduction to the writing process advises the use of outlines before and after drafting legal materials, and advises writers on effective editing and proofreading practices.

Frederic G. Gale & Joseph M. Moxley, How to Write the Winning Brief (ABA Section of General Practice 1992). KF251 .G34 1992.
This manual addresses writing as a process, and devotes attention to prewriting steps, as well as revision and editing. Examples and checklists are provided throughout.

Ian Gallacher, A Form and Style Manual for Lawyers (Carolina Academic Press 2005). KF250 .G35 2005.
This guide takes a deadline-focused approach to the process of writing, including leaving enough time to edit the work properly. An editing checklist provides a handy format for checking a writer's work.

Tom Goldstein & Jethro K. Lieberman, The Lawyer’s Guide to Writing Well (McGraw-Hill 2002). KF250 .G65 2002. This guide addresses the process of writing and devotes extensive sections to editing for clarity, precision and forcefulness. It includes examples, problems, and solutions.

Teresa J. Reid Rambo & Leanne J. Pflaum, Legal Writing by Design: A Guide to Great Briefs and Memos (Carolina Academic Press 2011). Reserve KF250 .R355 2011.
This overall guide to legal writing is practitioner-focused written in a conversational style. It discusses the process of writing, and offers tips for beginning a writing assignment, as well as the necessary final steps for polishing. Examples are provided throughout, and the volume is thoroughly indexed.

 

Legal Briefs

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This section contains specific advice for preparing both trial and appellate briefs.

C. Clifford Allen, Reporter of Decisions, Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Official Reports Style Manual (2011).
This manual provides the guidelines judges and court staff use in writing opinions, and may also provide useful advice to authors of appellate briefs.

Andrew L. Frey & Roy T. Englert, Jr., How to Write a Good Appellate Brief
The Appellate Practice Group from Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw provides guidelines for writing an appellate brief.

Peter W. Martin, Introduction to Basic Legal Citation (LII 2010).
This guide includes the principles of legal citation and provides examples. An appendix offers state-specific citation information.

Veda R. Charrow et al., Clear & Effective Legal Writing (4th ed., Aspen 2007). Reserve KF250 .C45 2007.
This work deals with cases and statutes, and their relation to briefs and other legal documents. It discusses specific types of legal documents, such as trial court memoranda and appellate briefs.

Frank E. Cooper, Writing in Law Practice (2d ed., Bobbs Merrill 1963). KF250 .C66 1963.
This text discusses the writing of pleadings and briefs, addressing issues of purpose, structure, and content. It also includes a detailed table of contents, a comprehensive index, and several specific examples.

Frederic G. Gale & Joseph M. Moxley, How to Write the Winning Brief (ABA Section of General Practice 1992). Reserve KF251 .G34 1992.
Written from a process perspective, this manual provides basic guidance for writing trial briefs.

Ian Gallacher, A Form and Style Manual for Lawyers (Carolina Academic Press 2005). KF250 .G35 2005.
Both the function and form of trial-level documents are discussed here. This manual includes examples and explanations of common elements such as captions, certificates of service, signature blocks, etc.

Bryan Garner, The Redbook: A Manual on Legal Style (2d ed., West 2006). Reserve KF250 .G375 2006.
This desk reference thoroughly covers matters of writing style in legal documents, including pleadings, motions, and briefs.  It contains a general index for topical areas, as well as a word index for treatment of particular words and phrases.

Bryan Garner, The Winning Brief (2d ed., Oxford U. P. 2004). Reserve KF251 .G37 2004.
An expansion of a CLE course on brief writing, this guide offers 100 "tips" in ten areas of brief-writing, and the reasoning behind each. It also features a brief index, and several examples of both good and poor legal writing.

Michael D. Murray & Christy H. DeSanctis, Adversarial Legal Writing and Oral Argument (Foundation Press, 2006). KF250 .M87 2006.
This guide includes advice on preparing appellate briefs.

Richard K. Neumann, Jr., Legal Reasoning and Legal Writing: Structure, Strategy, and Style (6th ed., Aspen 2009). Reserve KF250 .N48 2009.
The focus of this work is demand letters, memoranda, and appellate briefs. Annotated examples also include motion memoranda.

Teresa J. Reid Rambo & Leanne J. Pflaum, Legal Writing by Design: A Guide to Great Briefs and Memos (Carolina Academic Press 2011). Reserve KF250 .R355 2011.
This overall guide to legal writing is practitioner-focused and written in a conversational style. It examines types of legal reasoning, the use of case law, and the logical organization of the legal document. Examples are provided throughout, and the volume is thoroughly indexed.

Jill J. Ramsfield, Culture to Culture: A Guide to U.S. Legal Writing (Carolina Academic Press 2005). KF250 .R354 2005.
While focusing on writers from outside the United States, this guide provides a valuable analysis of different types of legal documents. Annotated examples are provided as well.

Edward D. Re and Joseph R. Re, Brief Writing & Oral Argument (9th ed., Oceana 2005). Reserve KF251 .R4 2005.
While emphasizing appellate writing, this practitioner’s guide also addresses trial document preparation, including briefs, memoranda, and motions. It includes a guide to legal citation as well.

Robin Wellford Slocum, Legal Reasoning, Writing, and Other Lawyering Skills (3d ed., LexisNexis 2011). Reserve KF250 .S568 2011.
This guide addresses both trial and appellate briefs. Topics include writing a statement of facts, structuring an argument, framing issues on appeal, and addressing the scope of the review. Sample briefs are provided.

Steven D. Stark, Writing to Win: The Legal Writer (Three Rivers Press 2012). KF250 .S8 2012. This book focuses on the legal writing of lawyers. Stark uses examples from other fields of communication. He scatters rules and practice tips throughout the book.

UCLA Moot Court Honors Program, Handbook of Appellate Advocacy (3d ed., West 1993). KF251 .H36 1993.
This handbook, designed for moot court participants, provides a short treatment of writing an appellate brief. The appendices include sample full length briefs.

Samples

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Full-text documents filed in various courts.

FindLaw Legal News: Featured Legal Documents
This continually updated collection includes complaints, motions, memoranda, and appellate briefs filed in high-profile cases.

Findlaw U.S. Supreme Court Briefs
This site provides briefs filed in U. S. Supreme Court cases from 1999 to the present.

 

 
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