Professor: What if the defendant made a fist and pulled back his arm demonstrating? Professor: And if the defendant did nothing but snarl at the plaintiff and say dont move? Student: Thats closer to the line. How scared is the plaintiff? Professor: What do other people think? Through this dialogue, the professor is examining the boundaries of confinement through physical threat. The students are learning to think about that concept, as well the words and actions that might qualify.
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They dont attempt the answer themselves, and they may not attend to the details of the classmates response. More important, we dont demand as much precision from students in class as we do on exam responses. In particular, we rarely require students to articulate fully how they have applied a rule of law to the facts of the hypothetical. That application can remain unstated because oral communication is more abbreviated than written analysis. Here is an example, based on one of Rocklins hypotheticals. Suppose that a torts professor is teaching the elements of false imprisonment. The students have just discussed a case illustrating that a physical barrier isnt necessary to establish confinement; threats of physical harm can suffice. The professor then engages in this essays dialogue with a student: Professor: Suppose the defendant pulled a knife on the plaintiff and held it a few inches from the plaintiffs neck. Would that be confinement? Student: Sure, that would scare.
Teaching students to write excellent exam answers is no longer an in-house academic game; it prepares students to offer succinct legal analyses in a wide range of contexts. Dont we already do it? Most professors assume that their classes prepare students to write well crafted exam answers. Day after day, we pepper students with hypotheticals and require them to respond. They respond orally (or listen to others rather than writing, but isnt summary the analysis the same? Rocklin argues compellingly that classroom answers are not the same as exam answers. First, of course, most students merely listen to a classmates answer.
Rocklin explains why law professors should teach exam writing to their students and, equally important, how we can do that paper effectively. Why teach Exam Writing? I used to think that law school exams produced a feeble, little-used form of presentation legal writing. When would real lawyers write without citations? Or without thorough discussion of precedents? But with the rise of email and other concise forms of communication, exam answers seem more like real-world communications. Lawyers frequently must answer a question with a succinct explanation of why their answer is correct.
Being nice means they're more likely to give it to you. Sure, sometimes it'll backfire, but most of the time i bet you it won't. . There will always be conflicts and misunderstandings in business, but if you follow these guidelines, Im certain youll be able to quickly and competently resolve those issues before they become unmanageable. March 15th, 2017 / by, deborah. Merritt, if law school classes teach students to think like lawyers, then why are so many final exams poorly written? Its not that students cant write, its that we havent really taught them to think like lawyers. Joan Rocklin is the latest educator to tackle this issue, in a paper just posted on ssrn.
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Use bullet points and numbered lists if you feel it aids comprehension. A lot of people think emails and contracts written in legalese carry more authority than those written in plain language. Legalese can cause confusion where clarity is needed. Avoid essay saying pursuant to or thenceforth or whereas. Dont try to impress the other person with a fancy dissertation. They wont be impressed, theyll just think youre an idiot. I know what you're thinking.
All you've told me is to be nice and clear. How does that get me what I want?". Well I don't want to put too fine a point on it, but that's how. The trick to getting what you want is that there really is no trick. Being direct means people will industrial understand what you're asking for.
Dont try to shroud your meaning behind vague statements, haughty language, or inside jokes. Dont try to get into some needlessly complex negotiation. The business email is no place for ambiguity or subtlety. If the other person has to spend even a few seconds wondering what you meant, you failed. Just say it directly. You'll sound competent and you'll get less pushback.
Don't use wavering language. If you use the words "perhaps" or "maybe you leave room for interpretation and equivocation. Instead, use if/then causal statements. "If you give me x, then I'll give you y is much less ambiguous than "Maybe if you give me x, perhaps I'll give you.". Short sentences keep you focused. They tend to be less confusing. This isnt creative writing; youre not trying to wow anyone with your stellar and imaginative prose. In business, you want to get the most amount of information across with the least amount of words.
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To get what you want, you need to: Focus on Clarity, we all suffer from what I call Clarity bias. We thesis think were clear as daylight while everyone else is vague. But the truth is, writing clearly and concisely is hard work and takes practice. I think i do it well, but Im always trying to get better (this blog post in the particular went through several drafts to ensure maximum coherence). Here are a few guidelines i use to help you maintain clarity in your writing. Say what you mean. Dont presume the other person knows what youre thinking.
Reminding them youre a human being and not an emotionless robot will help keep things humming along. Avoid accusatory and threatening language. Hanlons razo r states that you should never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by negligence (or stupidity). Operate as if youre working together for a mutual good and that misstatements and miscommunications are accidental. Avoid putting them on the defense. Work out any problems without resorting to name-calling and accusations. Thats how you turn a mole hill into a mountain. So youre being unfailingly nice (yes, even if theyre jerks right back to you but that alone wont get you what you want. Tone is about how you say a thing but it doesnt tell you what to say.
least once in the email - unironically if possible. Practice reading the email aloud; if you cant read the whole thing while smiling, rewrite. Politeness is the name of the game, and you should always be the last person to abandon. Be less formal where appropriate. Use first names if you can. Write in your actual voice, not some abstract notion of how you think a lawyer or business person sounds.
You plan dont want to compose it on the fly on your phone. Email should stick around and be traceable so you can find important conversations. Luckily, if you learn to write emails correctly, you can really make it work for you. So how do you do that? Focus on Tone, when writing to a vendor, partner, or client, you want to make sure you dont sound like an asshole. Unfortunately, that can actually be pretty hard! Emails by nature cant convey tone, so you have to juice your language a bit to ensure you don't sound rude or offensive.
Thinking like a lawyer
Receive the latest by email: subscribe to the new york sun's free mailing list, submission of reader comments is restricted to ny sun sustaining members only. If you are not yet a member, please click here to join. If you are already a member, please log in here: Member Login. Email gets a bad rap these days for a lot of reasons. Not self-destructing like snapchat its not a good mobile communication solution, it takes too much apple time, theres too much of it, its rife with spam, and so on and so forth. But i actually love email for a lot of those reasons (not the spam stuff, obviously). To me, these arent bugs, theyre features; theyre exactly what makes email a useful business tool. Email should take time to write.