Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Myths of persuasion

Two myths of persuasive legal writing:

1. A legal argument is aimed at an opponent.
  • Dead wrong. In legal persuasion, you argue primarily "for" the decision-maker, not "against" the other side. Your goal is to move the arbiter to the conclusion you favor by the shortest, easiest, and most legally sound route, not to make your opponent weep and crawl abjectly away.
2. You persuade by an act of will, by forcing your argument on your readers so strongly that they have no choice but to accept it.
  • Equally wrong. You might persuade your kid brother that way, but not judges or other lawyers. You persuade them only if, finally, they think they have reached your conclusion of their own free will, because you have led them to a result they would have found without you.

--Stephen V. Armstrong & Timothy P. Terrell, Thinking Like a Writer: A Lawyer's Guide to Effective Writing and Editing 274 (Practising L. Inst. 2003).

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