That seems odd, doesn't it? Criminal cases where the stakes are so high in terms of individual freedoms and the attorneys on both sides are relying on decades of materials that other people created. In the civil world, where arguments usually stem from money, attorneys constantly proffer new work and varied legal arguments.
I noticed my own deficiencies in this area a few years ago. What do I do when I notice a weakness? Try to turn it into a strength. I have spent so much time training younger assistants over the last years that I have done away with all the form and boilerplate material that floats around the office and urged others to do the same. The form response does not allow an attorney to actually understand the law or its technicalities. That doesn't mean I start from scratch each time. It means I actually read the cases I'm citing and tailor my paperwork to actually respond to the legal arguments instead of just relying on work someone else did. The reason I've noticed my writing has improved is because I've spent the last week slaving over a memorandum of law that, as of right now, stands at 75 pages. A memorandum of law is a concise argument stating why the court should rule in favor of your side.
The hearings that created this behemoth relate to four defendants with six different crimes, and over 20 witnesses. In my early days of DA life, before I decided to concentrate on becoming a better writer, I never could have accomplished this task. I would have submitted some half-hearted effort that wasn't well researched and would put lawfully obtained evidence in jeopardy of getting suppressed.
Instead, I am creating something I am truly proud of and will hopefully destroy the arguments my adversaries are proffering, where they are relying on some clear boilerplate language and mine is well-researched and crafted. The memorandum as it stands is too long and will probably shorten a bit, but there were so many issues related to different statements, different identifications, recovery of property, search warrants, entry into homes, and the like that every issue is being litigated.
My writing has improved significantly over the last few years, coinciding with when I began this blog. It was part of the reason I started Prosecutor's Discretion too. I wanted feedback on my writing style. Do people read it? Do people understand what I'm saying? Is it entertaining, informative, clear? By the amount of people that keep checking out the site every month, it shows I must be doing something right.
In the past year I've been published in a legal journal (hopefully more to come of this when I get time) and had a memoir piece published in a local newspaper. Five years ago all of this would have been impossible. What have I done different? Focused on the weakness and absolutely now I know it is one of my strengths.
Now to get some of that fiction published . . .