In order to be a good paralegal, you should possess many different skills. Your ability to communicate well is probably the most important of all as it enables you to come to an understanding with your attorney.
And while spoken communication is important, written one is even more so. Here are ten ways that you can improve your legal writing skills.
1. Take Classes
It’s probably been a very long time since you last sat down to remember the basic rules of grammar. Most of us learned it way back in school and then unconsciously used it from time to time.
And so, the first thing you should do is to sit down and go through grammar, structure, and punctuation rules in order to refresh them in your memory. Take a class in English if you are too rusty. It’s recommended that you get a language guide such as The Elements of Style by Strunk and White to keep by your side at all times.
2. Use Outlines
Using an outline has many benefits to it. For instance, it helps you prepare for what you will write afterward. By creating an outline, you organize your thoughts and get a clear picture of what you want to see at the end. You will be able to see “holes” in your thought process and fill them out beforehand in order to avoid mistakes later. Make sure to create an outline before getting to the actual writing.
Here are some tools and services to help you with writing your legal documents:
- Trust My Paper: This online writing service can write your paper for you.
- Grammarly: This online tool checks your text for grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors.
- Studicus: This online writing service offers a variety of papers to be written for you.
- Hemingway Editor: This online tool highlights adverbs, passive voice, and complicated sentences in your text and asks you to get rid of them.
- WOWgrade: This online writing service, just like the two above, can write your text.
3. Read Challenging Material
The best writers are usually the ones who read a lot. It’s true that while reading, your brain “absorbs” the different grammatical structures and figures of speech subconsciously.
This is why it’s so useful to read challenging material such as legal research material, Supreme Court briefs and opinions, and detailed pleadings. While doing this, pay close attention to the structure, tone, and vocabulary used, and maybe even take notes. You will need to practice your legal writing skills a lot, but for now, focus on reading and learning this way.
4. Write Concisely
Adding more words does not add authority to a document. Try to make your writing concise and tight as this will make it a lot more compelling and will have a greater impact on the reader. Of course, it will take time and practice for you to learn to write in a concise, pragmatic manner, but once you achieve that golden balance between length and contents, you will be the master of legal writing.
In addition to the tools and services mentioned above, here are several more to help you: Google Docs (online text editor perfect for teams), Grab My Essay (an online writing service), and Focus Writer (a text processor with a simplistic design to help you focus better).
5. Never Use The First Draft
First drafts should never be taken as a finished document. They work only as what they are – a draft. It is essential to learn to edit your writing. Moreover, you not only have to read your draft but also edit it several times before it can be called the final document. In fact, sometimes you will need to rewrite it completely in order to get it to the version it should be.
A great book to check out on this is Thinking Like a Writer by Stephen V. Armstrong and Timothy P. Terrell. It is basically a lawyer’s guide to effective writing and editing. It will help you a lot during your learning.
6. Always Proofread Several Times
Always proofread your work several times as you may never know what you’ll find. Proofread it a day or two after you wrote it in order to notice mistakes. You will get a fresh view of it that way.
“The experts at Supreme Dissertations believe that proofreading your work is very important as it shows that you are a professional. It’s not something to be ashamed of, but rather pride yourself on it,” says a representative of the online writing service.
7. Ask Someone To Review Your Work
Another great way to find those small mistakes you didn’t notice yourself is to have someone else look through your writing. Ask a friend or a family member to review your work. In fact, getting a professional editor to do this might even be better. In any case, the point is to get a good review of your work.
8. Have A Good Topic Sentence
A good topic sentence is the foundation of your document. Everything you write will be based on it, so it absolutely must be a good one. You will be building everything on that idea or thought which will help you keep your writing concise. Longer documents will need an outline, but shorter one will do with a solid topic sentence.
“Here at Best Essay Education, we believe that a good topic sentence is half of the job, while everything that’s left is the second half. Yes, it really is that important,” says a representative of the online writing service.
9. Use The Active Voice
A lot of writers in different fields suffer from one problem: writing in a passive voice. While passive voice exists for a reason, it is not a good idea to use it in your documents all the time.
Active voice makes your writing far more compelling. It puts the accent on the subject rather than the action. So, for example, instead of writing, “The water pump was incorrectly installed by the contractor,” you should write, “The contractor incorrectly installed the water pump.”
10. Practice A Lot
Last but not least, practice makes perfect. You may know all the grammar rules and you may have read all the books on legal writing, but you won’t be able to hone your legal writing skills without actually practicing.
Practice at least several times a week to see progress. If you want to learn faster, practice several times a day. Don’t forget to regularly get feedback on your writing to be able to work on the aspects that need improvement.
All in all, improving your legal writing skills is really not that hard. All you need to do is follow the advice in this article and practice, practice, and, once again, practice. It takes time and dedication, but ultimately, it’s worth it.