Can an iPhone app improve your legal writing? Kathleen Vinson thinks so. A professor of legal writing at Suffolk University Law School in Boston, Vinson has developed iWrite Legal, a free iPhone app designed to help legal writers improve their writing skills.
The app consists of three sections — Legal Writing Tips, Legal Writing Checklist and Additional Resources — all aimed at providing advice and guidance on writing, editing and proofreading a legal document.
The first section, Legal Writing Tips, is simply that — a collection of tips, no doubt gleaned from Vinson’s own experience teaching legal writing. Each tip occupies its own screen, with a heading such as “Finding the Time to Write,” “Be Consistent” and “One Point at a Time,” followed by a paragraph that elaborates on the point. For example, under the heading, “Writing Efficiently,” the app offers this tip:
Do you feel that it is taking a long time to draft a document? Good writing takes time but often what slows writers down is trying to edit while you write. Don’t edit/revise while you write or stop to think of the perfect word. Write quickly and then once you have completed a draft, edit slowly. If you have to, cover the screen while you type so you can fight the urge to edit while you write.
The second part of the app consists of four legal writing checklists. They cover the initial stages of writing, revising, editing and proofreading. For example, the checklist for the initial stages of writing lists items such as, “What is the purpose of the document?”, “What relief do you want from the court?” and “Why is your client entitled to this relief?” As you satisfy yourself that you have covered each element, touch that element in the app to check it off.
So will this app make you a better writer? Well, allow me to quote from the app’s tip on good writing:
No magic formula, pen or computer exists that will automatically make your legal writing good. Don’t look for a quick fix.
That said, tips and checklists such as these can serve as checks and balances on your writing. In our rush to get work done, we can easily overlook the fundamental elements of effective writing. Having a checklist close at hand may not make your writing better, but it sure won’t hurt.