Looks like Steve Rosenberg has been eating his Wheaties. This post on Steve’s blog about law review articles is well-written and insightful: legal information has a fairly short shelf life, so to be of value, it must be accessible. Information that contains a high barrier to access is like a concrete bunker with machine guns shooting out of it — you will bypass it in favor of information that is easier to get to. Also, thanks to Steve for the nice compliment about my blog in this thought-provoking post.
Access, of course, implies more than just whether it is easy to find something on a topic, but also whether you care to read it. When I first started practicing, having recently come from journalism, I got into it with some partner who tried to tell me my style of legal writing lacked gravitas. I recall one sentence that set him off was actually pretty conventional, nothing at all like some of the techniques I now use. It went something like this: "The economic loss doctrine, according to the court, arose out of product liability law and has not yet been extended to construction defect cases in this state." This was a guy whose favorite word was "hence," and he just couldn’t stand it that I deviated from orthodoxy by putting that attribution in the middle of the sentence, something journalists do frequently to vary the rhythm and cadence of a story. I still remember exactly what he said: "This is not journalism, Dave!" My response? "Obviously not." I completely reject any manner of thinking about writing that places the needs of the writer above those of the reader. The most important thing is to communicate a message: what the delivery system for that message is, I don’t particularly care as long as it works, nor do I believe in subordinating the message to a desire to look smart or full of gravitas.