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Moving Beyond Instinct: Persuasion in the Era of Professional Legal Writing

16 Pages Posted: 17 Jul 2008 Last revised: 18 Jul 2008

Kathryn Stanchi

Temple University - James E. Beasley School of Law

Date Written: 2005


Moving Beyond Instinct is a book review of Advanced Legal Writing: Theories and Strategies in Persuasive Writing by Professor Michael Smith. In the review, Advanced Legal Writing is evaluated not only as a teaching text, but also a practitioner desk reference and a theoretical exploration of advocacy writing. The review argues that Advanced Legal Writing represents a significant forward step in the literature about persuasive writing, because it names and categorizes specific rhetorical devices and, using multiple theories from disciplines outside law, explains why they work. In this way, Advanced Legal Writing allows scholars and practitioners to move beyond their reliance on what they instinctively think or know is "persuasive" toward a more analytical, informed knowledge of persuasion. In addition, the review argues that Advanced Legal Writing encourages and helps advocates make persuasive writing more beautiful and interesting, and proves that persuasive legal writing is an art and a discipline worth studying.

The review critiques Advanced Legal Writing for its failure to address some of the moral issues related to the troubling aspects of advocacy, particularly those techniques that are psychologically manipulative or easily misused. Having noted that certain techniques are effective because they play on human psychology in a particular way, the review argues that the book should have explored a bit more the line between persuasion and manipulation. Specifically, the review suggests that Advanced Legal Writing, in particular because it is a teaching text, should have devoted some space to acknowledging how certain persuasive techniques can reflect and reinforce hierarchies of class, race, and gender.

Keywords: persuasion, book review, legal writing, rhetoric, legal education, persuasive writing

JEL Classification: K41

Suggested Citation

Stanchi, Kathryn, Moving Beyond Instinct: Persuasion in the Era of Professional Legal Writing (2005). Lewis & Clark Law Review, Vol. 9, p. 935, 2005. Available at SSRN:

Kathryn Stanchi (Contact Author)

Temple University - James E. Beasley School of Law ( email )

1719 N. Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19122
United States
215-204-8807 (Phone)

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