CBA Record Jan-Feb 2021
back is something that goes way off in left field days later [after] you burned all of this time and now it’s going to be somebody else’s emergency project.” Schwartz concurs, “We had a running mantra when I was at Groupon. My boss would always say, ‘Trust but verify.’” Junior attorneys may trust that their supervising attorney knows the law, but the junior at- torneys should “verify to make sure that actually is the right answer. And if it’s not, or if there’s something else out there, provide that extra, and then you’ll really be the star of the show.” The old saying is still true: there is no stupid question. What are your writing tips for new lawyers? Would you like to give new lawyers advice? I invite you to sendme short descriptions (100 words) of other challenges you see in junior attorneys’ writing and your solutions. Send them tome at CBARecord@chicagobar.org. Writing is important. Communication is important. These tips go beyond writing style to how to use one’s writing to succeed as a practicing lawyer. These few tips may start a new lawyer on the right path.
thirds: one-third research, one-thirdwriting, and one-third editing. She emphasizes that editing is more than looking for typos. It is clarifying your writing. “It’s looking at each sentence and saying, is that really the best, most direct way I can say that.” Understand that the first draft will be rough. “Anticipate that editing is going to be a very big chunk” of the writing process. Magajne, a transactional lawyer, follows a rule of thumb of spending 20%of her time editing. For example, spend four hours to draft a contract and one hour to review it. “When you’re trying to draft a [contract] provision or sentence in your memo that is trying to convey a message, you sometimes forget about the grammar and the structure and the proper punctuation,” according to Magajne. After the initial draft, she edits her writing tomake it more concise and in plain English, “so that the client can understand it.” She adds, “And trust me, it gets so much better if you spend that 20% of time.” Knuckey also recommends leaving “enough time to put it down, step away, and come at it fresh,” noting “We’ve all gone through it; if you’re writing and then revising back-to-back the same document over the course of one day, you’re no longer going to catch your typos.” It all “bleeds
together.” Acknowledging we do not always have a day to set aside a document, Knuckey recommends finding a colleague who can take a quick look at it. Junior attorneys need to leave enough time to edit their work. Editing is an important part of the writ- ing process. New attorneys need to schedule sufficient time to edit a draft before handing it to a supervisor. Ask questions Sometimes a junior attorney may start researching an issue and discover related issues or perhaps faulty assumptions from the supervising attorney. Before spending hours researching new issues, the junior at- torneys should ask the supervising attorney questions. Should they divert their research to explore new issues? How can they tell a partner he or she may have misunderstood the applicable law? Knuckey suggests an associate should approach the partner and ask, “Can we talk about it further? Can I askmore questions?” She notes, “That turns what could be a big mess into a big win, because any attorney is going to trust someone who has the guts to go back and do that right away and ask those follow-up questions.” She concludes, “Really, the worst thing [a partner] can get
The Chicago Bar Association 3rd Annual
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February 8, 2021 | 3:00-4:30 p.m. Live Webcast at learn.chicagobar.org 1.5 IL Diversity/Inclusion PR-MCLE Credit $0 Member | $25 Nonmember
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CBA RECORD 41
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