Smokeball’s Josh Taylor Hosts Persuasive Writing Workshop at The John Marshall Law School

//Smokeball’s Josh Taylor Hosts Persuasive Writing Workshop at The John Marshall Law School

On February 8 and February 15, as part of his appointment to The John Marshall Law School’s Writing Resource Center, Smokeball’s own Josh Taylor spoke to law students about the art and nuances of persuasion in legal writing.  The workshop, “Persuasion: The Art of Spinning Your Case” was structured to get first-year students to layer persuasive writing techniques onto their objective legal writing skills.  Here are a few highlights of the topics discussed:

Language Matters

Word choice, placement, and other characterization matters when trying to persuade a reader to trust your theme of a case over your opponent’s.  The workshop first focused on moving from objective memo writing to persuasive writing within the same legal writing framework.  Using general or specific terms, words of time and space, and other detail-oriented writing techniques, students witnessed how the same set of objective facts take on extremely different themes.

Persuasive Writing is Not Brain Surgery

While teaching these techniques, it was important to highlight that persuasive legal writing is not a step-by-step scientific process.  Much of the nuance is determined by the facts of a particular case, the audience, and the writer/lawyer’s own personality.  Thus, the students learned that there is no set formula for applying the techniques discussed in the workshop.

Persuasion is Powerful for All Pieces of a Memo or Brief

From headings to legal rules to substantive arguments, persuasive writing techniques can apply to all aspects of a memo or brief.  The Four Tools for “spinning” each section of your legal writing are: 1) Space, 2) Detail, 3) Position, and 4) Word Choice.  Within in part of a memo or brief, a lawyer can employ all four to make their theme of a case more persuasive to readers.  Space means devoting more space to good facts, cases, and arguments.  Detail means utilizing specificity or generalities to make your argument more potent.  Position relates to placing good things up front and at the end, but burying bad things in between.  Finally, word choice allows lawyers to really amp up their legal positions.  These tools can be applied in both factual and legal portions of a document.

The workshop focused on actual examples of these tools being applied to legal writing, and it culminated with students working through a long objective fact pattern to develop a theme and statement of facts for each side of the dispute.

By |February 25th, 2019|

About the Author:

For years, Josh has helped lawyers become more organized, productive, and profitable. A trained litigator, Josh came to Smokeball from a large east-coast law firm where his practice focused on franchise, insurance, marine, and general litigation. His work with Smokeball, and his continued passion for what he does each day, is driven by a desire to help lawyers and their staff do better in every way. Knowing well the stress and strain put on today’s legal professional, he regularly focuses on improving work and life in the law. He has traveled the country working with and learning from lawyers and their staff. Josh speaks regularly to bar associations about successful law firm practices and other legal topics. Recent notable engagements have been with the Chicago Bar Association, the Illinois State Bar Association, and the Missouri Bar’s Solo and Small Firm Conference. In addition to his work at Smokeball, Josh serves on the Writing Resource Center staff at The John Marshall Law School. Besides legal technology, his research interests include judicial decision-making, jury decision-making and psychology, and legal writing. He has written and overseen research exploring causal effects of sex/gender on federal appellate court decision-making, and assisted with research for a forthcoming textbook on judicial decision-making. Additionally, Josh sits on the Board of Directors of Chicago-based Community Activism Law Alliance and on the Board of Directors of Chicago Fringe Opera Company. Josh holds his J.D., cum laude, from Washington University in St. Louis, where he served as a Senior Editor of the Wash. U. Law Review, held the prestigious Thompson Coburn Research Fellowship, served as Research Assistant to then-Vice-Dean (now Chancellor) Andrew D. Martin, and clerked at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. He holds a B.A. in Political Science and a B.M. in Music Performance with Honors Scholar distinction from the University of Connecticut, making him a Huskies basketball fan through and through. Follow Josh’s activity on LinkedIn, and keep up with new articles on the Smokeball Blog.