Advice Column: Procrastinating in the Big Apple

Dear Legal Writing Pro,

Whenever I have to draft a long document, I have trouble getting started. Can you help?

–Procrastinating in the Big Apple

My Response

Dear Procrastinating,

Trust me, you are not alone. For many lawyers, a blank computer screen feels like an abyss. Popular advice such as “Just get something down on the page” can make you feel even worse if you don’t know where to begin. And advice to “brainstorm” can cause you to freeze.

Try This

So let’s try something new. Buy a stack of index cards. Take one card, and look at the lined side. Imagine that you are limited to the lines you see and cannot fill up more space even if you want to. Now take a pen, and write a three-sentence message to the judge, client, or party. What would you want your readers to remember if they kept your card but lost everything else?

Why It Works

Index cards are comforting, not intimidating like a computer screen. By limiting yourself to the space on one side, you’ll do more than get off to a great start. You’ll also challenge yourself to decide what matters most.

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