No longer do lawyers write most of their work “by hand.” Instead, most legal writing is now done on word processors. This has the potential to change the way lawyers write in a fundamental way. Because word processors make it easier to write more than was possible “by hand” modern legal writers are more akin to sculptors than painters. Such writers must create finely-tuned written products from the large quantities of material that can now be inputted into a document and then edited and whittled away to create a finished product.
This Article examines how the arrival of the electronic age has changed the ways in which lawyers write and argues that these changes require rethinking the way legal writing is taught. This Article begins by discussing the increased use of computers as the primary medium for legal writing. This development mandates studying the differences a word processor makes in the way lawyers write and learn to write.
Then, the Article posits that writing via word processor may detrimentally change legal writing and explains how this might have happened. It then acknowledges that there are some ways in which legal writing may be improved significantly through the use of computers. Reconciling these benefits and detriments is the challenge for today’s legal writing programs. The Article concludes with recommendations for ways in which those who teach legal writing can refine their pedagogical techniques to assist new lawyers in becoming effective writers and word sculptors in the electronic age.
In the years that have passed since the publication of this piece, the transition to electronic writing has occurred even faster than this Article posits. Thus, the need to consider the impact of electronic media is greater than ever.
Lucia A. Silecchia, Of Painters, Sculptors, Quill Pens and Microscopes: Teaching Legal Writers in the Electronic Age, 75 NEB. L. REV. 802 (1997).