Blog Archives - Professor B's World of Legal Writing
A lot of the people who read a bestselling novel, for example, do not read much other fiction. By contrast, the audience for an obscure novel is largely composed of people who read a lot. That means the least popular books are judged by people who have the highest standards, while the most popular are judged by people who literally do not know any better. An American who read just one book this year was disproportionately likely to have read ‘The Lost Symbol’, by Dan Brown. He almost certainly liked it.The Economist
Good writing is not only about deep legal analysis but also about clarity.
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Evidence that, even in the Supreme Court, simple English is the most effective way to communicate an argument. After this exchange, it is highly unlikely that the justices remember the issue at all.

As the Policy Statement said: always remember, "Give me English words over Latin maxims" Acree v. Republic of Iraq,
370 F.3d 41, 64 (D.C. Cir. 2004) (Roberts, J., concurring).

From the oral argument transcript today in Briscoe v. Virginia, a funny moment in the argument of University of Michigan law professor Richard Friedman:

MR. FRIEDMAN: I think that issue is entirely orthogonal to the issue here because the Commonwealth is acknowledging -
CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: I’m sorry. Entirely what?
MR. FRIEDMAN: Orthogonal. Right angle. Unrelated. Irrelevant.
JUSTICE SCALIA: What was that adjective? I liked that.
MR. FRIEDMAN: Orthogonal.
MR. FRIEDMAN: Right, right.
JUSTICE SCALIA: Orthogonal, ooh.
JUSTICE KENNEDY: I knew this case presented us a problem.
MR. FRIEDMAN: I should have — I probably should have said -
JUSTICE SCALIA: I think we should use that in the opinion.
MR. FRIEDMAN: I thought — I thought I had seen it before.
JUSTICE SCALIA: Or the dissent.
MR. FRIEDMAN: That is a bit of professorship creeping in, I suppose.I think Friedman should have explained “vectors with a dot product of zero,” but I guess that would have been overly technical.

If you’re curious, the Supreme Court has never used the word “orthogonal” in a written opinion. It has usually appeared in the federal reports in patent cases, although it occasionally surfaces elsewhere. See, e.g., United States v. Harris, 491 F.3d 440 (DC Cir. 2007) (“This test is fact-intensive, and the facts at issue are often orthogonal to those explored at trial.”)."


To understand why your undergraduate and law school education should not just be practical.

Ok, all you former students! Which lawyers should get an A and which should get a C?