Words of a Feather: Poetry as a Tool for Legal Writing

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Poems—expressions of inner life that had at first seemed purely fanciful to me—have become foundational to how I teach legal writing. Poems are built with similar conventions to those used to write a legal brief, and reading and writing poetry can help lawyers develop thoughtful prose, perspective, and style. Poems implicitly ask a reader to pay attention with a heightened awareness of language. They use imagery to convey ideas, inspire empathy in a reader, and communicate a theme, and they rely on structure and variety to shape a reader’s experience. Legal writing has more practical ends than poetry—generally to advise or persuade a reader—but it is agile, too, and begins where all writing begins—with the search for a word.