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Sapere aude - dare to be wise
Thursday, September 25, 2003
Posted 8:36 AM by Kevin
In defense of LARC

I understand people having concerns with legal writing classes. I understand the feeling that we're all being fitted with straightjackets and that it's difficult to know whether what we're learning will have any lasting value.

The thing about legal writing, from my limited experience is this: one is right to point out that creativity is being stifled because there is little room for creativity in most of the writing we will undertake--technical writing. Tech writing is dull stuff, but it is not meant to entertain. It is meant to convey complex ideas as clearly as possible and as easily as possible. It is designed for quick consumption, with zero fat.

Now, does this necessarily mean that creativity is driven out in the process? No, but the kind of creativity left is not the sort one will have in an essay, a newspaper article, or even a research paper. It is more akin, in my experience, to the creativity one has writing a sonnet. First one gets the rules, shapes the material for quick uptake and understanding, and then one works with those virtues to make something in which one may embed a personal stamp. Sonnets feel constrictive until one reads those written by Shakespeare.

Now, as I said, it also depends on what sort of legal writing one does. Memos, for example, leave little room for creativity. I've also no doubt that many lawyers will say that what we do in these classes is worthless, but I also think that hindsight is 20/20. Our inclinations toward flowery prose and attenuated paragraphs need to be curtailed sooner rather than later. An attorney who has mastered these skills may have long forgotten the first fitful, clumsy steps that made their current sprinting possible.

That's my two bits, and I'm off. I'm not saying that I love LARC, but I hated Aikido until I mastered the basics so that I could do the fun things the advanced students did. I hated the fact that they seemed to take liberties with the methods while I had to do the same robotic motions over and over. My teacher once told us a story. A new disciple once asked the Buddha why certain monks were allowed to eat foods that he could not and go places he could not go. "Are these practices not important," the new disciple asked?

"Yes," said the Buddha, "but once one crosses to the farther shore, one has little use for one's raft."

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