Empathy for the Reader: Persuasive Legal Writing in Plain Language

(82 Ratings)

Produced on: June 16, 2018

Course Format On Demand Audio

Taught by


Course Description

Time 76 minutes
Difficulty Beginner

The problem with most legal writing is that it’s written for the writer’s benefit—not the reader’s.

That’s why it's notorious for convoluted sentences, ad hominem attacks, pompous vocabulary, and conclusory analyses. And, unfortunately for the writer, these are traits that most readers—including judges—hate.

Presented by appellate attorney Dana Heitz, this presentation relies on case law to illustrate the fundamentals of writing that’s easy to understand and more likely to stick—in other words, we learn from courts themselves how to write in a reader-friendly way. After discussing the perils of bad writing, we explore why writers should keep themselves out of the spotlight and how they can, then review strategies that simplify a message. Finally, we look at empirical and anecdotal evidence which underscores the impact that plain-language, reader-focused writing can have on a client’s case.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Describe bad habits that pervade the legal profession; identify characteristics of good writing
  2. Recognize discrete steps within the writing process necessary for a well-structured, polished product
  3. Explore the extent to which bad writing impacts a reader’s assessment of an argument’s credibility, and identify specific instances where confusing writing has had practical costs

This course originally appeared as a part of our June 2018 Bridge the Gap Event.


Dana Heitz

Heitz Legal

Dana E. Heitz is an appellate attorney with Heitz Legal, P.C. She has argued at all levels of New York State courts as well as in the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York and the Second Circuit. In her free time Dana researches and presents on effective persuasive writing techniques.

Dana graduated cum laude from Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego, CA, and holds an M.A. in international affairs from The New School in New York City. She is an Ironman triathlete, has qualified for the Boston Marathon, and won several triathlon awards, both age group and overall.

Dana is a member of several bar associations, including:

  • New York Women’s Bar Association (Newsletter Committee)
  • New York City Bar Association (Small Law Firms Committee)
  • New York County Lawyers Association (Appellate Courts Committee / Chair, Amicus Subcommittee), and NYCLA UN Representative, 2017-2018
  • Federal Bar Association
  • Co-organizer, Deliberate Solos


Mary Ann D.

Enthusiastically High Marks! One of the best Lawline speakers. Extremely useful content for all professionals.

Jonathan F.

More lawyers should take this course.

James M.

Great presenter!

Lee H.

Excellent presentation!!

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$ 89 Legal Research & Writing and Litigation In Stock


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