The Art of Legal Writing
The other morning, I was chatting with a fellow professional in my networking group. His work isn’t related to the legal profession, but when we spoke of my work, he said that he considers good legal writing to be an art form. It was really gratifying to hear this, because I think so, too, and this is the approach I take to my work and proudly provide for my clients.
Some years ago, I had a client who was a playwright. He wanted to leave his estate to the theater that produced his work and establish a program that would showcase the work of future young playwrights. It was really satisfying for me to draft the language that would create such a program, and though he has sadly since passed away, it’s perhaps even more satisfying to be putting his plans into action. I remember back when we started to organize and develop his documents, I told him that I enjoyed the creative writing process involved in putting together his estate wishes, to which he looked at me quizzically, and jibed, “I thought I was the creative writer in this room.”
There are different kinds of creative writing, but all legal writing entails the imagination to consider and address a universe of possible circumstances that might exist at times in the future, as that contract or will is implemented, and to imagine the range of things that could go wrong. It also involves an understanding of the shades of meaning in a word or phrase, and a sensitivity to the way they might be innocently misunderstood, or maliciously misconstrued, at some other place and time. We’ve all heard about legal cases that turn on the placement of a comma – that’s for real, every detail matters. It takes years to master the skill of translating complex concepts into orderly, comprehensible language. And there’s great satisfaction in the result – one of the greatest compliments that I enjoy hearing from my clients is that my documents are clear.
So, I really like my playwright client’s creative writing, and I really like mine as well. What I do is to take my clients’ ideas, wishes and concerns, and craft them into verbal machinery that will perform the intended tasks. I’m part essayist, part programmer, and part fortune-teller. Because whatever plans you’re imagining, I can put them into words, so that you can put them into effect.
Ron Meyers graduated from Columbia University in 1992, from Harvard Law School in 1999, and has been practicing law in New York City since 2000. He worked for several years in major law firms on commercial real estate matters, such as the World Trade Center, the creation of the High Line and the redevelopment of Times Square. He turned to private-client work in 2007, opening his own practice in 2009, where has now served over 1,000 clients. He and his team handle estate planning, probate and residential real estate matters for individuals, couples, & families of all kinds.