Eight Writing Tips to Help You Thrive as a Summer Associate

By Ed Lintz

1. Print before you send. Print a draft of your work and edit it by hand before you send it to a partner or senior associate. Editing on the screen is rarely as effective as editing by hand.

2. Send before you send. Are you worried about how your email formatting will look to a partner? Then send a copy to yourself first. Click on the attachments. Do they look exactly the way you want them to?

3. Watch out for Track Changes. No partner wants to print out the memo you sent and see it covered in annoying redlines and comment bubbles, unless the comment is directed to the partner. Accept all your changes and turn off Track Changes before you send.

4. Ask if the partner wants a clean and a redline. If you’re inputting edits a partner gave you, ask her if she wants to see a redline of the two versions. Some partners insist on them. Others want only the new, final version. The only way to know is to ask (or, better yet, ask an associate who works with the partner frequently).

5. Short > Long. Partners don’t like unnecessarily long sentences, phrases, or words. Keep your sentences, clauses, and word choices short. When in doubt, try breaking one long sentence into two shorter ones.

6. Hear, not “here.” It’s tempting to use fancy-sounding words that you associate with legal writing. Many of these involve “here” (“hereafter,” “hereinunder,” “heretofore”). Don’t fall prey to this temptation. Read your sentences out loud. Hear the way your writing sounds. Write in in plain, simple English.

7. Read other law firms’ documents. If you’re asked to research an issue for a motion to dismiss, why not look at how top law firms have written about that issue in recent briefs? It’s not cheating to review peer firms’ work product; it’s smart.

8. Use the power of lunch. Have a difficult writing or research question that will take a lot of an associate’s time to answer? Ask them out to lunch. You hold the keys to a magnificent kingdom filled with free high-end lunches. Use that power to make your question a pleasure rather than a burden!


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