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How can I write for LIV Young Lawyers publications?

How can I write for LIV Young Lawyers publications?

By Adam Wakeling

Young Persons 

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Writing for the LIV Young Lawyers publications is a great way to develop your skills and get your name out there in the profession, here’s a few tips on how to get started from our Editorial Committee co-chair, Adam Wakeling.

In his essay Politics and the English Language, George Orwell outlined six rules for good writing:

  1. Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
  2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
  3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
  4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
  5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
  6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything barbarous.

It’s possible to disagree with some (or all) of Orwell’s rules, but they make a good start for someone trying to write clear, readable prose. I recommend Politics and English Language to aspiring writers for this reason.

When you write an essay for university you know the person marking it will read it from start to finish because they’re being paid to. But when writing for the YLJ and YL Blog, it is important to remember that we cannot take our audience for granted. As much as we like to think that everyone who stumbles on our article or post will attentively read it from start to finish, the reality is that not everyone will be interested in the topic and many of those who do will have other calls on their time. Your mission is to get key information across in a readable article. This is the first part of a two-part series, where I will write about background and structure.

Background

  • Do read previous editions: YLJ articles from 2016 and 2017 are on the LIV website, earlier editions are on Austlii going back to 1996.
  • Do your research: Even if you’re writing on a non-technical topic like networking, still do a basic search for articles online to get an idea what people have already said. You should also consider writing to organisations for facts and figures, searching the general and legal media, and conducting interviews with subject matter experts. If you want people to read your opinion on a topic, you must be able to present more information than a two-minute Google search.
  • Do use examples: If you open The Age and pick out any article on a government policy decision, it will almost certainly include interview comments from someone affected by the decision. This is basic journalism, and is appropriate to many topics covered by the YLJ and the Blog. For example, if you are writing about growing diversity among young lawyers, you should consider interviewing some young lawyers from diverse backgrounds.

Structure

  • Do have a point and stick to it: You will not have enough words to take your reader on a stroll through the countryside. Your article should have a central point which can be summarised in one sentence, similar to the argument of a thesis or the angle of a news story. For example, “AI is becoming increasingly important to the law and here is some practical information on it for young lawyers”. You might like to take your readers back in history and explain the origins of AI through Charles Babbage’s counting machine and Alan Turing’s work on early computers, but this is not really relevant to your theme and you are unlikely to have space to do it.
  • Do get your point across early: You are not writing a suspense novel – the point of your article should be in the first couple of sentences. Think of the ‘inverted pyramid’ of journalism.
  • Do think about different possibilities for structure: Writing in a journalistic style gives you a lot of freedom for structure. You can write a Q&A, a list of hints, an interview, or a prose article as you prefer. Pick whatever gets the information across to the reader most easily. My only specific advice is to avoid long blocks of prose and break your article up with sub-headings. It makes it more approachable, and gives your readers a better idea of the content going in.
  • Do have a strong opening: The opening determines whether your readers will stick to your article. There’s two basic approaches – one is to start with a sentence or two summarising the content, the other is to begin with a fact, quote or story to illustrate it. For example, an article on family violence might begin with “On average, one woman is killed each week in Australia by her current or former partner”, a fact which establishes the importance of the problem. Done correctly, either approach is fine. This can be very effective, but be careful about making your opening too long – the reader might lose interest before they get to the actual theme of your article.

This blog will continue in a second part next week, where I will discuss style.

Adam Wakeling was the 2016 and 2017 Co-Chair of the YL Editorial Committee. His first book, The Last Fifty Miles: Australia and the End of the Great War, was published by Penguin in 2016. If you are interested in writing for the Young Lawyers Journal, submissions are now open for the ‘learning and development’ themed edition. Information for authors is available here. Submissions close on 12 January 2018.


Disclaimer: Views expressed by commentators are not necessarily endorsed by the Law Institute of Victoria Ltd (LIV). No responsibility is accepted by the LIV for the accuracy of information contained in the comments and the LIV expressly disclaims any liability for, with respect to or arising from any such views.

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