Junior lawyers’ writing skills just aren’t up to scratch. There are explanations (and blame) abounds. Universities, poor feedback from supervising lawyers and the ominous sounding Dunning-Kruger effect each receive their share of blame. There’s more than just unrecoverability of fees at stake – there’s also an opportunity cost attached to having a senior lawyer rewrite a junior’s work product or time spent fixing terrible billing narrations.
So what can you do?
Fortunately, for the tech savvy junior lawyer there’s a vast marketplace of editing software to complement a spell check. With over 250 grammatical rules being analysed, a contextual spelling checker and vocabulary enhancer, Grammarly is one of the most popular online services. ProWriting Aid boasts 25 separate reports about how your writing can be improved. There are many others such as WordRake, PaperRater, Hemingway App, After the Deadline and Slick Write. For those lawyers moonlighting as novelists Autocrit and SmartEdit have been developed with a specific focus upon fiction writing.
Unfortunately no software solution is completely error free. All occasionally suffer from false positives by incorrectly flagging correct expressions as mistakes or, even worse, introducing new errors through the suggested correction. But they do present an opportunity for junior lawyers to utilise them as a learning aid to understand how passive language can be fixed and to develop consistency in expression.
There's more than just 'tech'
However, there is an alternative. Traditional editors and proofreaders have moved online too, presenting significant opportunity for cost-saving through time-arbitrage by freeing up lawyers of all levels of seniority to focus on higher value activities, rather spend time on activities typically representing an unrecoverable cost. With many offering 24/7 availability and quick turn-around times, it’s even possible to progress your advice outside of office hours.
Scribendi has edited more than 1.2 billion words for more than 400,000 orders and does so in a style-guide of your choosing (such as the Australian Guide to Legal Citation or your own internal style guide). Turnaround times are quick, with 1,500 words turned around in 4 hours, 10,000 words in 24 hours and 65,000 words in 1 week. 24/7 support is enabled through a network of more than 250 professional editors around the world – who typically have two or more degrees and 15 years’ professional experience. Other alternatives include Wordy, Papercheck and Australian companies The Expert Editor and Online English.
With many services having stringent security protocols and offering to implement project specific confidentiality agreements, for those willing to the navigate issues of disclosing confidential client information significant opportunity awaits. There is plenty of opportunity to use these services outside of matter work – thought leadership and business development, submissions to legal directories, tenders, academic writing and reviewing your firm’s website content. Given time spent on those activities is rarely recoverable, a significant return on investment might be achievable.
There is another useful alternative to software or professional editing. Actually teaching junior lawyers how to use their tools of trade. The Scribendi team through their sister company, Inklyo offers 13 online courses in all to improve your writing, editing or proofreading. Could you could benefit from a proofreading or editing course?
What is your approach to improving the writing skills of junior lawyers?