Excellence in Professional Practice: Post #3: Make the Words Count

Make the words count…….

Each and every one.

Lawyers are verbose – not always in a pompous way, although some are but they can’t help it. They also like to hide behind terminology that only they understand.

This creep has arisen for two primary reasons:

1. To justify their costs; and

2. Because of the need to practice defensively.

Even judges are not immune. When I first went into the practice the case reports were shorter but as we have bulked up our legislation and there is an increased proclivity for parties to challenge every decision, so judges have felt the need to fight fire with fire.

One thing blogging has shown me is the value of words.

Yes I know Seth Godin gets talked about endlessly but very often his most powerful and insightul posts are the shortest.

Challenge yourself next time you write an email, letter, proposal or a blog post (yes there are lawyers that blog) to use 10% less than usual. Perhaps the easiest way to do this is to give yourself a word limit or write something and then see if what you said can be said with fewer words. If all this seems like too much hassle, then at least start to think more carefully about the value and longevity of your words.

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8 responses to “Excellence in Professional Practice: Post #3: Make the Words Count”

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  3. The key is proofreading and editing. I was taught “less is more”. Read your letter several times before it goes and each time cut out unnecessary words. It’s easy to do, but like everything, no one spends time on being 100% great – mostly because it’s difficult to bill for all that reviewing of one letter.

  4. The key is proofreading and editing. I was taught “less is more”. Read your letter several times before it goes and each time cut out unnecessary words. It’s easy to do, but like everything, no one spends time on being 100% great – mostly because it’s difficult to bill for all that reviewing of one letter.

  5. Jon Bloor says:

    …or as Strunk & White’s Elements of Style would have it:-

    “Omit needless words”

    I agree with Stephen about the editing and cutting process too. I blogged about this a while ago with reference to Stephen King’s On Writing. Not the first book which would spring to mind for lawyers (although I have seen plenty of legal copy which could be filed in the “horror” section!), but it actually has some very useful pointers.

    Link to the post below:-

    http://www.peninsulawyer.com/blog/2010/4/13/is-law-a-creative-profession.html

  6. Jon Bloor says:

    …or as Strunk & White’s Elements of Style would have it:-

    “Omit needless words”

    I agree with Stephen about the editing and cutting process too. I blogged about this a while ago with reference to Stephen King’s On Writing. Not the first book which would spring to mind for lawyers (although I have seen plenty of legal copy which could be filed in the “horror” section!), but it actually has some very useful pointers.

    Link to the post below:-

    http://www.peninsulawyer.com/blog/2010/4/13/is-law-a-creative-profession.html

  7. Cheers. I will check out the link.

  8. Cheers. I will check out the link.

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