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Know Thy Audience: Persuasion in Legal Writing

October 12, 2011

KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE. This concept is so easy, yet so easily forgotten. After you have your objective in mind, it is important to consider who you have to convince in order to accomplish that objective.

The answer is not always as obvious as one might think. Sometimes a pleading is meant for the judge, but sometimes it is meant for opposing counsel. You can use the things you don’t say to subtly let opposing counsel know certain strategies or information available to you, which perhaps they’d prefer were not featured in the next pleading.

When a pleading is straightforward, and designed to seek relief from the Court, you will want to consider what person will be reading it. This is where a little knowledge about your local judges goes a long way. Some judges are more “rough justice” oriented while others like to engage in philosophical inquiries. Some absolutely require extensive case research while others can live without it. You have to get to know who you are trying to convince in order to decide how to convince them.

The same holds true for correspondence, including emails as well as letters. Some people respond best to reason and logic, while others respond more appropriately to a firm, unforgiving tone. Of course you will want to stay polite, even if a firm tone is more likely to accomplish your objective with a particular recipient.

By taking a moment to consider your audience, you can better structure your argument to appeal to that person’s intellectual framework. It is also a sign of respect to your reader to more deliberately draw the line between them and what you want to accomplish.

Solo and small firm attorneys should contact me by email or phone at 608-620-3529 to schedule a free consultation.

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