(Book Review) Stop Telling and Start Showing Show, Don't Tell: Legal Writing for the Real World by Adam Lamparello & Megan E. Boyd

5 Pages Posted: 8 Dec 2016

Date Written: June 2016


Legal writing does not lend itself to the “show, don’t tell” concept in its traditional sense. The idea of bringing characters to life, evoking emotions, and painting pictures with words simply does not spring immediately to mind when contemplating motions and memoranda. As Steven Stark’s Why Lawyers Can’t Write article in the Harvard Law Review proclaimed over three decades ago, “you don’t need a literary critic to know how badly most legal prose is written. You need only turn to any page of most legal briefs, judicial opinions, or law review articles to find convoluted sentences, tortuous phrasing, and boring passages filled with passive verbs.” Time has not healed. In a recent ABA Journal column of the same title, Bryan Garner observed, “While lawyers are the most highly paid rhetoricians in the world, we’re among the most inept wielders of words.”

Assigning fault is part and parcel of lawyering and there is no shortage of blame to go around for the supposedly sad state of legal writing. In addition to proposing that the legal profession has succumbed to a pervasive Dunning–Kruger problem, Garner calls out the usual suspects: declining standards in secondary and higher education, senior associates ill-equipped to hone the skills of their young colleagues, and law schools that “inundate students with poorly written, legalese-riddled opinions that read like over-the-top Marx Brothers parodies of stiffness and hyper-formality.”

Show, Don’t Tell: Legal Writing for the Real World seems almost a direct response to such criticism. The book is designed to “not only benefit law students, but [to] assist law schools that are transitioning to an experiential-based learning model, and law firms that seek a concise, economic, and comprehensive guide to teach young lawyers litigation drafting.”

Keywords: Legal Writing

Suggested Citation

Hamm, Marie Summerlin, (Book Review) Stop Telling and Start Showing Show, Don't Tell: Legal Writing for the Real World by Adam Lamparello & Megan E. Boyd (June 2016). Legal Communication & Rhetoric: JALWD, Vol. 13, 2016, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2881398

Marie Summerlin Hamm (Contact Author)

Regent University - School of Law ( email )

1000 Regent University Drive
Virginia Beach, VA 23464
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.regent.edu/acad/schlaw/faculty_staff/hamm.cfm

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