The Legal Writer's Checklist Manifesto
Legal Communication & Rhetoric: JALWD, Vol. 8, 2011
16 Pages Posted: 6 Mar 2011 Last revised: 17 Dec 2012
Date Written: March 3, 2011
Saving money, saving time, and saving lives: these are the accomplishments of the "humble" checklist outlined in Atul Gawande, The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right (Metropolitan 2009). The Checklist Manifesto explores various types of checklists and their benefits for professionals working in various fields such as medicine, aviation, and construction. This book review focuses on checklists’ potential benefits for lawyers - and more specifically, for lawyers engaged in the task of legal writing. Widely available checklists provide excellent tools for new lawyers to check their work and internalize common stylistic practices of legal writing. These same checklists can also help experienced lawyers to edit their work efficiently and to notice and change bad writing habits they may have acquired. Yet the benefits of checklists extend beyond the individual writer laboring to complete an assignment. The Checklist Manifesto also explains the benefits of process-based checklists, which require members of a team simply to check in with one another at specified intervals. These process-based checklists could help teams of lawyers to work together more efficiently and produce more effective written work product. Process-based checklists also contribute to a healthy and open working dynamic in which all members of a team have robust opportunities to participate. The Checklist Manifesto makes a compelling case for the benefits of checklists in various industries. Legal writing - as one concrete embodiment of law practice itself - stands equally to gain.
Keywords: legal writing, editing, proofreading, revision, revising, law practice, practice of law, checklist, checklists, practice management, supervising, mistakes, expert performance, collaboration, attrition, legal analysis, legal education, legal profession, malpractice, medicine, construction, aviation
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