Most good-writing books suffer from a sleep-inducing sameness. Often smug and condescending, they tell you what to do and what not to do ― be concise; avoid verbosity, especially the dreaded legalese; use active verbs; don’t write passive sentences, unless of course you’re smart enough to know when to break the rule; use strong lead sentences to start paragraphs; use strong summary sentences to end paragraphs; and so on.
Author Ross Guberman breaks the die. His entertaining and informative Point Made: How to Write Like the Nation’s Top Advocates takes a smart approach to writing persuasive legal briefs. Rather than lecturing the reader about what to do, Point Made shows you how the headline lawyers do it.
Guberman breaks down the brief into basic elements — theme, facts, argument — and describes how to deliver them. He then shows skillful writing techniques with examples from briefs written by all-star lawyers.
It’s an effective way to present writing technique. You see exactly how a particular method has been used to write a persuasive brief. And in case you don’t get it, like a good teacher Guberman is there to help you understand.
Point Made is exceptionally good at showing technique for writing the facts of a case. Guberman calls this chapter “The Tale.” Sections on setting the stage and on letting choice details speak for themselves are most effective. Most everyone can learn from the contrast between James Stewart’s two versions of Ivan Boesky’s ostentatious restaurant order. The difference between telling and showing is startling and enlightening. It makes for a yeah-I-see-that-now moment.
Point Made is worthwhile reading. It’s full of ideas a legal writer can use to write a persuasive and readable brief. More than a typical how-to, it’s a this-is-how-effective-lawyers-do-it book. Keep it nearby for the times you’re having trouble expressing on the page what you need to say to make your case. You’ll appreciate it, and so will your client and the court.