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We’re Glad You Came:  A Summer Song Reminds Us to Bridge and Link Between Ideas and Paragraphs

Here at Legal Writing in Brief, we’re tackling summer writing projects, preparing for the upcoming semester, and–just occasionally–taking in some summer sun and relaxation.  And of course, we’re humming along to this year’s hottest summer songs.  In fact, it’s one of those songs that prompted today’s topic:  bridging and linking from one concept to the next.  We don’t yet have a legal writing tie-in to the ubiquitous “Call Me Maybe,” but the lyrics to another popular summer song, “Glad You Came” by The Wanted, illustrate this technique for adding cohesiveness to your legal writing.

If you haven’t heard this song, give it a listen.  In addition to the lively and slightly demented music that accompanies the lyrics, we think part of this song’s power comes from the links and repetition between concepts that create a driving force and intensity in the song.

Turn the lights out now
Now I’ll take you by the hand
Hand you another drink
Drink it if you can
Can you spend a little time,
Time is slipping away,
Away from us so stay,
Stay with me I can make,
Make you glad you came.

Notice how the lyrics use a simple linking technique–repetition–to drive the narrative forward and pull the reader into the next concept.  Will the same technique work for your legal writing?  Even without the spunky young men from The Wanted singing your brief (and don’t get us started on the racy video), we think bridging and linking can work for you too.

The trick is to look for common ground between your concepts and paragraphs.  After all, you placed those concepts and paragraphs next to each other for a reason; you want your reader to see that reason too.  Because your reader is probably reading your material for the first (and perhaps only) time, you don’t want to leave your reader wondering what the connection is.  So, make the connections as explicit as possible.  (You can also use words such as “those” and “that” to help your reader, as this paragraph does.)

Here’s a slightly more prosaic example:

Under the deferential abuse of discretion standard of review, the ERISA administrator’s decision stands so long as it is reasonable and supported by substantial evidence.  To be disturbed, the administrator’s decision must be unreasonable.  The Court is increasingly narrowing the circumstances under which de novo review is available, and the Court recently reaffirmed its approval of the abuse of discretion standard and noted its disapproval of “ad hoc exceptions” to deferential review.

Because of this deference, the accuracy of the initial claims decision and the communication of the Participants’ rights are critically important in achieving ERISA’s goal of ensuring contracted benefits.

Here, the reader can see that the point is about a deferential standard of review and why deference affects ERISA plan participants.

So, whether you’re writing about summer fun in Ibiza (like The Wanted) or ERISA regulations (like us), we hope you’ll take your reader on that journey with you, through carefully-placed links and bridges.

— LWIB

P.S.  Incidentally, we at Legal Writing in Brief were walking through an airport on our way to a legal writing conference when we saw a book entitled “Good to Great.”  While the title to our summer blog series was not based on this book, we will rename our summer series to avoid any confusion.

From Good to Great: A Summer Legal Writing Series

Welcome to Legal Writing in Brief!  As the summer months approach, we’re thinking about students heading to their internships and clerkships, lawyers perfecting their briefs and memos, students about to start law school, and all those whose summer will involve legal writing.  Each one of you will be working hard to impress judges, potential employers, clients, or professors.  Over the summer, we will present a few ideas on how you can do just that.  In other words, how your legal writing can evolve from acceptable or good, to great.

What makes the difference between good and great legal writing?  Of course, there are a multitude of reasons to prefer one piece of writing over another: crisper prose, more logical structure, or better word choice to name but a few.  Any attempt to articulate every aspect of a good piece of writing is simply an overwhelming task.  But what if we focused on just a few straightforward ways to improve your legal writing?  Our aim is modest–to advance the ball.  To that end, we’re calling this summer series “Good to Great.”  We have a few of our own ideas about how legal writing can be better; we’re starting in June with connections between concepts, sentences, and paragraphs.  These are the connections that keep your reader engaged and help get your point across.  We’re sure you have some ideas about good legal writing too–are there any you’d like to see us blog about?  If so, just send them over.  We’ll add them to our summer “Good to Great” series.

Wishing you success in your writing projects,

Legal Writing in Brief

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