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ASK THE MAM — LAW FIRMS HIRING EDITORS FOR IMPROVED WRITING

DEAR MAM: I’m looking for the answer to this question: does it make sense for a law firm to employ an editor? Editors find ways to present information so it’s easy to follow, so it’s easy to find answers to questions. In other fields, editors work with Subject Matter Experts who know the material (but who may not know the best way to present it). Why not have them work with lawyers to make pleadings as effective and persuasive as possible? Sincerely, MT, San Francisco, CA

DEAR MT: I am going to answer your question along two completely different lines. First, while the concept of hiring an editor to work on pleadings, briefs and other legal documents might sound smart, the reality is that “legal writing” is in a world of its own. I still remember struggling through my 1L legal writing course in law school, because I was at a distinct disadvantage-I knew how to write. I was coming off a year reporting for The Baltimore Sun, and using real journalistic approaches to legal writing. Most lawyers can not write for their lives, but they know how to write legal stuff. Do you think someone putting together a one million page brief full of baloney is going to want it skillfully edited by a non-lawyer? Not to mention having to go through it again, since you might make editorial changes that alter the argument.

Now, for the second part of my answer. Many firms hire former journalists, editors and skilled writers for the marketing team. Because that stuff, when written by lawyers, is deadly. Some of the best law firm marketers I know are former journalists that lead a law firm’s publication and public relations efforts. They will also tell you that the pay is significantly better than what they would earn writing for a newspaper or magazine. The down side is that it is extremely boring. And instead of getting your stuff edited by skilled editors, you get your stuff edited by those same lawyers. It can be frustrating. But, it pays well. And polished marketing collateral, be it a magazine, client alert, press release, newsletter or article, does stand out. If you get a good paying publications job at a law firm, send me a gift certificate for dinner somewhere. Sincerely yours, THE MARKETING ATTORNEY