Legal writing is one of the more lucrative specializations in the freelance writing sector. The requirements for legal writers are generally more stringent thus giving the writers the opportunity to command higher rates.
This is not to say that you can simply declare yourself a legal writer. As with any specialization, you’ll need to undergo some training, learn, and gain some experience. There will also be that transition period as you work your way to becoming a fully fledged legal writer.
So, how do you transition to legal writing? Here are some tips that will make it easier for you.
1. Learn about legal writing from those in the legal sector.
Learning about the subject matter is the first step, and from whom can you learn better than those who are already part of the legal sector? Interact with anyone and everyone you know – be it a criminal lawyer, a legal writer, or a paralegal – in your circles. Gus Kostopoulos, a defense attorney Chicago, tells us, “the best way to learn is by finding a mentor attorney to teach you.”
You don’t have to focus solely on the writing process/material, but talking about real-life cases and situations may give you an understanding that will come in handy as you transition to legal writing.
2. Read everything legal writing-related material you can get your hands on.
This time, you need to go deep into the writing process – the rules, the structure, and so on. There are different types of legal writing, so you’ll have to cover a lot of ground in the beginning. Your choice of learning material will depend on the area you want to master.
For the more specialized areas, you’ll want to look at samples of legal briefs, case laws, legal journals, and legal news.
Other alternatives are law firm websites for legal web content and copy, law firm brochures, and press releases.
Whatever aspect of legal writing you decide to specialize in, the key is to read and learn as much as you can.
3. Expect to see your writing “go bad” in the beginning.
You’re an excellent writer, and you have all the confidence you need. Don’t feel bad if, suddenly, it seems your work isn’t good enough when you start with legal writing, especially if you work on legal briefs, motions, and reports. Most legal documents follow specific structures and language, so you’ll have to unlearn some of the things that you know, all the while picking up new habits.
4. Create a structured process and apply it.
Following the structure of legal documents, you’ll benefit from planning out your writing process, too. If you already use outlines, then you’re probably good to go. Transitioning to legal writing will be a breeze. If not, then you’ll want to try it out.
5. Be prepared to spend a lot of time rewriting.
During the transition period, expect to spend more time rewriting your work. You may think that you already do a lot of editing, but do bear in mind that editing is not rewriting. When you’re starting out as a legal writer, you’ll make a lot of mistakes. But don’t let that deter you. It’s part of the process.
If, from the get go, you expect that you’re going to stumble now and then as you learn, then you’ll only get better faster.
Remember, keep your eye on the prize. It’ll be worth it.