Atticus Finch. Abraham Lincoln. Clarence Darrow. Those are some of the attorneys who have inspired many to attend law school and become outstanding trial attorneys. However, you don’t frequently hear aspiring trial attorneys utter the names Wiley Rutledge, Benjamin Cardozo, or Oliver Wendell Holmes as reasons why he or she attended law school. Is there a reason for this leaning toward the great trial attorneys and not some of history’s greatest legal writers? The reason is likely that trials are exciting, especially in movies and television shows. Cross-examinations, opening arguments and summations can be exhilarating. How many TV and movies scenes have you seen featuring a lawyer giving a heartfelt speech to a jury on behalf of her client or a heart-stopping cross examination? A lot, I’m betting. Now think of all the TV and movie scenes where the protagonist is featured spending hours writing and editing motion papers or appellate briefs. I’m guessing you haven’t sat through a lot of those scenes.
Those of us who have practiced law for even one year know that those exciting courtroom scenes are few and far between in our daily practices. A good part of our profession involves writing. Clear, concise writing is an important skill for an attorney. Writing is a common denominator for some of our best and most successful attorneys. Not too sexy, but very essential. Mr. Justice Stevens thinks so; see his interview with Bryan Garner here and here.
Bryan Garner and a United States Supreme Court Justice will be the keynote speakers at DRI's 2011 Annual Meeting. Effective legal writing will be the focus of the presentation; a skill just as important as convincing a jury to find in your client’s favor. Who knows? You might even leave the presentation with some new legal heroes.