Writing Style Preferences of Supreme Court Justices

Writing Style Preferences of Supreme Court Justices


This week, Bryan Garner and Justice Scalia released a new book, Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts.  In honor of this release, before I read it, I thought I would share five of my personal favorite writing tips from Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges, the popular 2008 book by Garner and Scalia about how to speak and write persuasively.  Choosing only five was nearly impossible.  

1. Spend time "getting" your arguments.

In law (and in business and life), we spend a lot of time arguing.  It is imperative for your credibility that you have a solid grasp on the positions you take and that your arguments are intellectually honest and sound. 

2. Sit down and write (then revise again and again!).

The first part - sit down and write - comes more naturally than the rest.  It is easy to become attached to your original wording, original organization, original idea.  I have learned from Bryan Garner that the art of writing is actually in the revision process, where, if done correctly, the original version may even become unrecognizable.  

 3. Appeal to justice and common sense.

Simple.  Compelling.  Whether before a panel of judges or otherwise, justice and common sense are trusted advisors.  

4. Approach the lectern unencumbered.

I have read Making Your Case several times.  Each time, I cannot help but read this as a metaphor (it is not - it is meant to be taken literally).  Our presence and presentation skills are best when delivered unencumbered, whether actually, emotionally or otherwise.  

5. Welcome questions.

In the book, this advice pertains specifically to questions posed by judges.  We would all be well-served, however, by welcoming questions and challenges to our everyday discussions, thoughts, and ideas.  This is character building. 

Desiree Moore is the President and founder of Greenhorn Legal, LLC. Greenhorn Legal offers intensive practical skills training programs for law students and new lawyers as they transition from law school into their legal practices.  Ms. Moore is also an adjunct professor at Loyola University Chicago School of Law and was an associate at the law firm of K&L Gates. She can be found on Twitter at