The Pen Can Indeed Be Mightier Than the Sword: The Importance of Good Writing in an Education Law Case
In 1839, novelist and playwright Edward Bulwer-Lytton first wrote the English words “The pen is mightier than the sword” in his historical play Cardinal Richelieu. Over the past few weeks in my Education Law practice, I have had the opportunity to help out a few clients simply by writing well crafted letters and a thorough appeal of school sanctions. One client had issues with his school failing to provide accommodations pursuant to his 504 plan. The other client was seeking a tuition reduction that the school promised her after she had been trying to get in-state rates for a tuition credit for over a year. In her case I drafted my letter and emailed it to the dean in the morning. By the afternoon the school responded – her tuition was cut in half. Many lawyers are just not great writers. It’s not necessarily their fault. Lawyers are taught in school to write like, well, lawyers. That means many lawyers think that long sentences filled with “legalese” is the way to impress. The more times the phrases “wherefore,” “hereto” and “such as” fills the page the better. Of course, that is just silly. It does not impress but instead masks what you are really trying to get across. I am a big fan of Professor Bryan Garner’s books on writing. I often refer to them when I am writing a brief or detailed letter. From his book, Legal Writing in Plain English, here are some simple writing tips that I find work very well to make your writing more persuasive and effective: • Order your thoughts in a logical order. Present any facts chronologically. • Divide your letter, brief, contract, etc. into sections, and sections into subparts, if needed. • Utilize “white space,” meaning, spaces not occupied with text, images or other visual elements. Many times this can make your writing more readable and easier to follow your arguments. • Omit needless words and keep your sentences on the short side. • Use good and professional typeface (that’s right, no comic sans – ever!) • Highlight ideas and important factors with bullet points. I have found time and time again that a well-crafted letter, brief or complaint can get a client what they want before resorting to full blown litigation. This saves the client a lot of anxiety, time and especially, money. So don’t underestimate the power of good writing and be sure you hire a lawyer who feels the same way. Richard Asselta is an education lawyer and the founder of Asselta Law, PA, located in Florida. Asselta Law concentrates on Education Law, Animal Law and Appeals. Mr. Asselta was the attorney for a large public school district. He draws upon the knowledge gained from the other side of the table to work with teachers and students on legal issues in all education settings. Asselta Law represents clients throughout the state of Florida and the United States. Contact us today for a free consultation with a knowledgeable education law attorney. Credit cards accepted. Affordable payment plans available.