Before I get into my review of Point Made, I have quick comment:
Writing is undoubtedly one of a lawyer’s most valuable assets and a skill worthy of constant and never ending improvement. But in law school, at least after our first year legal writing course, there is seldom a class that consistently asks the student to write briefs, memos, or otherwise work on their legal writing ability week-to-week. While this post is not intended to be a critique on the law school norm imposing a one-year course, some students, like myself, need additional help in legal writing. Because even after my first year of law school, I was still a terrible writer, and I don’t believe law schools do enough to help students in my situation. Nevertheless, the burden is on the students to turn to self-study to develop their skills.
Don’t worry, and hopefully you can tell, my writing ability eventually changed for the better. It started with my Antitrust class, where I elected the option to write four short papers in lieu of a final essay exam. This opportunity gave me the time and motivation necessary to hone legal writing skills. Over these months writing the essays during my Fall semester of 2L, I saw my writing ability increase tremendously and I later received an A in this class.
With this increased confidence, I ventured to write a law-review comment—which was eventually published—over winter break of 2L. But the question remains, how did I improve? Was is merely repetition and persistence? Did something just click with Antitrust and the law review comment topic that made my writing worthy of praise? How did I move from receiving a below-average grade in my legal writing classes to relative writing success? The answer is legal writing books. The one that started it all was Strunk and White, but enough commentary is out there on that book and it is well-established as a legal writing authority. So, I will review a different, more recent book instead: Point Made by Ross Guberman
But first let me comment that while I am a huge proponent of reading books generally, I know many students don’t believe they have time to read materials outside of assigned texts. Not reading a single book on legal writing after your first year course, however, is a huge mistake. Writing is something we can constantly improve on, whether it be reading books geared towards persuasive brief writing or those on style and grammar. I find it incredibly useful to turn to legal writing books to transform you into the best writer possible. Without further delay, I’ll get into Ross Guberman’s book, which gives tips on brief writing, style, and grammar—albeit unorthodoxly.
The bulk of the book is in the form of excerpts not written by Guberman, but by some of the most famous legal writers of our times—Thurgood Marshall, Justice Ginsburg, Chief Justice John Roberts, Laurence Tribe, and even a few excerpts from the President (Obama). Guberman begins throughout by introducing witty section titles like: “One Fell Swoop: Distinguish a line of cases all at once.” Following, he gives a brief—very brief—intro into the concept of interest, and then, jumps right into excerpts, pointing out how the advocate uses the principle alluded to in the section. Using bolded words in the excerpts, the pertinent usage is evident and easy to follow throughout all sections.
This format is highly effective in this comprehensive legal writing book and I personally have gained tons of value. This new way of illustration, by way of heavy reliance on excerpts, gives the reader insight into what advocates really do when writing a brief. It really enjoyed how Guberman serves up these insights and makes them easily accessible.
I found the excerpt method especially valuable because in law school, we read opinion after opinion after opinion. Thus, it was refreshing to read briefs by advocates—not judges, or their law clerks—and see the persuasive value these lawyers engender in their writing ability. And where else can you find a highly persuasive section of a Kathleen Sullivan brief followed by a Morgan Chu motion all in one place? Guberman’s compilation is truly unique in format and does not disappoint in breadth or comprehensiveness of content. He provides you various tips to use in your intro, all the way to your conclusion—Guberman recommends ending with more than a simple prayer for relief or two sentence request for judgment.
Guberman is also a complete grammar-nerd, which I appreciate. He adds highly technical grammatical and stylistic principles in little notes following various excerpts, where he either criticize or praises the excerpt for its grammatical or stylistic content—and provides a correction if necessary. Here’s an example of his work: “Try to reserve ‘While’ for time, as in ‘While the case was on appeal, the parties settled.’ For subordination, [ which was used in the preceding excerpt] . . . prefer ‘Although’ or ‘Even though.’”
In the end, Point Made is a valuable tool for any law-student, lawyer, or individual wanting to understand how the best lawyers in our legal system write—and win cases. I would recommend it to anyone wanting to take their brief writing to the next level. Guberman’s distillment of such a vast array of writing principles, communicated through the briefs of legal giants, is guaranteed to help do so. He also provides problems—serving more as a recap than challenge—in the end of the book to solidify the principles discussed.
Lastly, I have attached my personal outline I created when reading this book. It provides a concise summation of all the principles used in Point Made, explicating them briefly, and providing a few examples from the briefs as well. Find it here:
Lastly, find the book on amazon here:
Disclaimer: I am an amazon affiliate, and if you purchase this book from the link here, I will receive a commission with no extra charge to you.