Australia: [Event] Writing for Different Audiences Program Workshop Plan
Last Updated: 18 February 2016

1. Background

Coherent, clear and effective writing that communicates to different types of audiences is a fundamental skill for lawyers.

Like other professionals, lawyers are required to write often, but are rarely taught how to do it for different types of communication. Yet, writing is a discipline and it can be learned. Writing can be evaluated and the principles of effective writing can be understood.

Lawyers do not write only legal advices or opinions. Lawyers have many audiences these days and in addition to what they already undertake as core business, are also now required to write and develop a range of additional materials, such as social media collateral and engaging digital content, media releases and story pitches to attract interest of the media, to name a few.

While necessary, these additional responsibilities are time consuming, The right techniques and resources will support them.

Carroll & O'Dea is seeking to provide the capacity building and resources to expand the writing skills of its lawyers.

A three-hour workshop for about twenty of the team, will kick-start the Writing for Different Audiences Program.

Another session will be run in due course on Tender writing.

2. Objectives

The main objective of the Writing for Different Audiences Program is to identify the different types of writing style that are appropriate for the varied audiences of Carroll & O'Dea Lawyers.

Objectives include:

  • Introduce the team to the experts and resources that provide insights, ideas and tips for good writing
  • Explain principles and techniques that will improve coherency and clarity in new and emerging areas of writing, such as social media and digital content
  • Help participants draft different styles of writing for diverse audiences, including, client communications, newsletters, media releases and social media, web publications, copy.

3. Our Approach

Julian Brophy and Trish Oakley have been advising professionals in how to write for different audiences for many years. The critical issue is ensuring that writers have the resources and techniques to support them.

Carroll & O'Dea's is currently preparing a Corporate Guide for the firm, which will cover branding issues, such as look and feel and a writing style guide.

In the design of this Writing for Different Audiences Program, we are influenced by Stephen Pinker's book (The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person's Guide to Writing in the 21st Century), which is a highly readable style guide. Pinker emphasises coherency and clarity and talks about how to achieve these two things.

Don Watson's books (the recent Worst Words and the previous Death Sentence) cleverly show how current trends in bureaucratese and legalise hinder good communication. They are an amusing read.

We will also talk about the traditional style guides, such as Strunk and White's, The Elements of Style. Writers such as George Orwell and effective communicators, such as Thomas Jefferson, are also worthwhile contributors on the topic.

The paper, Schools — Legal Literacy Revisited by Australian academics, Dean Bell and Penelope Pether, is a comprehensive Australian look at how law schools could be teaching writing.

The article is a bit too academic (and its not very well written!) but its fundamental point - that writing is a process rather than a product – is one of the most important principles of good writing.

The second major proposition that underpins the program is that writing for different audiences is a discipline and can be learned.

We have prepared Ten Tips for Writing for Different Audiences that summarises the strongest points of the major thinkers in the field.

4. Workshop Strategy

The program will be a highly interactive, three -hour workshop with about 20 or so participants.

The workshop is intended to be lively, entertaining and provoke discussion.

We will used a variety of media, including a YouTube of Stephen Pinker, lots of examples of good and bad writing, a short Ten Tips for Writing for Different Audiences Presentation and a practical breakout session based on real life examples of writing for different audiences.

A draft workshop agenda is below.

The workshop will focus on how to achieve clear, coherent, persuasive and interesting writing for different audiences and in different formats as well as understanding the different needs of audiences.

The drafting exercise, will also build capacity in the process: drafting, reviewing, editing and evaluating.

Materials will be provided to the participants both before and during the workshop to stimulate discussion. These include:

  • Recent works by CODEA team which have resulted in strong engagement
  • The Bell and Pether article
  • A Guardian story about a George Clooney law suit
  • A fact sheet on Ten Tips for Writing for Different Audiences, drafted by Perception
  • A bibliography and links to a range of resources, such as Legal Writing Exercises: A Practical Guide to Clear and Persuasive Writing for Lawyers by E Scott Fruehwald
  • A Guardian think piece on writing for CVs and how most, with the use of 'zombie' language, are dishonest these days
  • An hilarious piece about how the American gun lobby succeeded because of a misplaced comma!

5. Workshop Agenda

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