Scribes is an American society whose goals include the creation
of an interest in writing about the law, and above all, the
promotion of a clear, succinct and forceful style in legal
A few years ago some Bay St law firms subjected their associates
to compulsory viewing of videos of interviews of US Supreme court
Judges on the subject of persuasive writing. These interviews have
now been transcribed and can be accessed in PDF form at Scribes
Journal of Legal Writing.
In what the New York Times described as a "trove" of
interviews conducted in 2008, eight justices of the US Supreme
Court describe how they write their opinions, what they are looking
for in legal briefs and the art of legal writing generally. Only
one judge, Justice David Souter, declined to participate.
A general comment made by the justices was that while the
quality of the briefs was high, they were too long. Often lawyers
use up their maximum of 15,000 words unnecessarily.
Such a message from so exalted a source must have ricocheted
around the walls of the editorial offices of Scribes sending bells
ringing and lights flashing like a winning fruit machine in
Founded in 1953 Scribes seeks to "spread the growing scorn
for legal writing that is archaic, turgid, obscure and needlessly
dull". It gives annual writing awards, publishes a newsletter
– The Scrivener – and a journal (in
Volume 13 of which the USSC interviews appear) – The
Scribes Journal of Legal Writing.
The Scribes website is well worth a visit.
The Scribes Annual Luncheon this year will be held in Toronto on
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