Tips & resources for legal writing


book_qYou need to analyze the law throughout the process of information gathering and writing. Some techniques to help you with analysis and synthesis are discussed in Assess the Cases. One of the best ways to improve your analysis and your writing is to create a structured outline of the issues by breaking down each legal issue into its constituent elements.  Decide which elements are problematic and which are straightforward.  Use your outline of the issues to structure your writing and to advance your analysis.

There are specific rules of legal reasoning and techniques that will help you evaluate the cases you find, and work with those cases to formulate a legal argument.  These rules and techniques are explained in Stare Decisis and Techniques of Legal Reasoning and Legal Argument by Paul Perell.

General suggestions for writing

Start writing early

desktopIt is often not until you sit down to write that you are forced to think clearly about the legal issues. Start to write earlier rather than later during the research process, and use your writing to advance your analysis. You will know once you begin to write which areas require careful thought, and which are straightforward. You will find the gaps in your research, and notice the inconsistencies between the cases. You may decide that you approached the subject in the wrong way, and recharacterize the legal issues.

Use an outliner

Structure and clarity are important elements of good legal writing. They will be easier to achieve if you write with an outliner. An outliner will help you organize your research into issues and sub-issues, and create a working draft. The outliner will also provide flexibility as you edit your draft.

Word has a built-in outlining tool that you can activate by turning on the Outline View of your document.

Get feedback

idea02It is worthwhile giving an early draft of your work to whomever is supervising your research to ensure you are on-track. Although research can be a solitary undertaking, it is always more effective when others contribute their knowledge and experience. The dialectic process prevents the researcher from proceeding on a narrow path and missing other ways to characterize the issues.


Legal writing and analysis

British Columbia Law Institute, Report on Gender-free Legal Writing.

Butterick, Typography for Lawyers.

Dernbach, Singleton et al, A practical guide to Legal Writing & Legal Method, 5th ed. (New York: Wolters Kluwer Law & Business, 2013).

Dick, Legal Drafting in Plain Language, 3rd ed. (Toronto: Carswell, 1995).

Dworsky, The Little Book on Legal Writing, 2nd ed. (Littleton, Colorado: Fred B. Rothman & Co., 1992).

Edwards, Legal Writing and Analysis, 3rd ed. (New York: Aspen Publishers, 2011).

Fajans and Falk, Scholarly Writing for Law Students, 4th ed. (St. Paul, MN: Thomson/West, 2011).

Fitzgerald, Legal Problem Solving – Reasoning, Research and Writing, 5th ed. (Toronto: LexisNexis Canada, 2010).

Fodden, “A Typeface Designed for Lawyers” (16 November 2011) online: slaw <>.

James & Goncalves, Modern Writing for Lawyers (Vancouver: Continuing Legal Education Society of British Columbia, 1994).

Lebovits, “Cracking the Code to Writing Legal Arguments: From IRAC to CRARC to Combinations in Between” (2010) 82 New York State Bar Association Journal (SSRN).

Kwaw, The Guide to Legal Analysis, Legal Methodology and Legal Writing (Toronto: Emond Montgomery Publications Ltd., 1992).

Laskin, “Forget the Wind Up and Make the Pitch: Some Suggestions for Writing More Persuasive Factums”.

LeClercq, Guide to Legal Writing Style, 5th ed. (New York: Aspen Publishers, 2011).

MacEllven, Legal Research Handbook, 6th ed. (Toronto: Butterworths, 2013).

McCallum, Synthesis: Legal Reading, Reasoning and Writing in Canada, 3rd ed. (Toronto: CCH Canadian, 2012).

McCormack, Papalopoulos & Cotter, The Practical Guide to Canadian Legal Research, 3rd ed. (Toronto: Thomson Reuters Canada, 2010).

Meehan, Strategic Legal Writing: Preparing Persuasive Documents.

Meehan, Ten Do’s and Don’ts for Written Argument at the Supreme Court of Canada.

Neumann, Legal Reasoning and Legal Writing, 7th ed. (New York: Wolters Kluwer Law & Business, 2013).

Oates, Enquist et al, The Legal Writing Handbook, 6th ed. (New York: Wolters Kluwer Law & Business, 2014).

Perell, “Stare decisis and techniques of legal reasoning and argument” (1987) 2:2,3 Legal Research Update 11-21.

Perspectives: Teaching Legal Research and Writing (West Thomson).

Simpson, “Persuading Judges in Writing: Tips for Lawyers (And how technology can help)” (

Supreme Court Advocacy Institute, papers on written and oral advocacy.

Tjaden, Legal Research and Writing, 3rd ed. (Toronto: Irwin Law, 2010). Companion website:

Whitehead & Matthewman, Legal Writing and Research Manual, 7th ed. (Toronto: Butterworths, 2012).

Grammar and reference tools

British Columbia Law Institute, Report on Gender-free Legal Writing.

Lynch, Guide to Grammar and Style.

Merriam-Webster Online.

Oxford Dictionaries.

Strunk, The Elements of Style.

Tjaden, “Do Not Use ‘and/or’ in Legal Writing” (27 July 2011) online: slaw <>