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Writing to Win

by Steven D. Stark, Broadway Books, 1999, soft back, 283 pages

Review by John E. Dannenberg

Write succinctly! Or, alterna-tively, bore your intended reading audience to death with burdensome legal treatises steeped in excessive, redundant verbosity, liberally laced with old-as-the-hills cliches.

Get it? Writing to Win is a refreshing, practical guide to improving your legal written communications skills. Attacking legal writing as obscure and often self-defeating, former Harvard Law Lecturer Steven Stark offers simple rules from which the reader can learn to avoid common mistakes.

Writing to Win helps you to create effective documents. Simple but often overlooked tools such as outlining and using active rather than passive styles are but two of Stark's ten "rules of the road." You also learn the fine art of editing - eliminating redundancy as well as obscure terms and trite expressions. Sprinkled with humorous examples, the text is particularly instructive because it is fun to read. For example, "Read my lips - no new taxes" was lauded for its direct communications approach - versus a rigorous discourse on tax policies that might have been offered instead.

Writing to Win is neither a grammar manual nor a forms book. It is a presentation guide focusing on aiding lawyers to approach their task of becoming more effective writers. Getting down to mechanics, Writing to Win first covers the art of argument - emphasizing six rules for achieving a strong narrative form. Next are sections on writing litigation (of particular use to PLN readers) and on writing in legal practice, e.g., memoranda and contracts. Chapters within each section deal with articulating facts (thirteen rules) and developing legal arguments (16 more rules). Other chapters guide you with rules for writing trial and appellate briefs, as well as for drafting complaints and answers.

Unique to this type of book are chapters on the important legal processes of written discovery and oral argument. And if your legal writing goes into patent applications, Stark offers fourteen rules for technical writing aimed at improving comprehension. Perhaps of universal use to PLN readers are the seven rules for effective legal letter writing.

Writing to Win offers a bonus bibliography of over 200 reference sources, indexed to each chapter, to permit the avid student to obtain further help in any topic addressed by Stark.

Remember, exactly 50% of all litigation is lost. If you've taken the trouble to litigate, don't you want to improve your odds of winning? Writing to Win is available from PLN (see p.33-34 of this issue) for $15.95 plus shipping.

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