Three things that poetry can teach you about good legal writing – by Adv Gregory Solik


In a conversation about poetry, US Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan says that she doesn’t read it much.

Besides being purposefully opaque, she muses, it’s as though, ‘the author is trying too hard to make you not understand something. And you have to work too hard to figure it out.’ Poetry, Justice Kagan goes on to say, is a kind of fancy-schmancy elevated language, which, ‘thinks too well of itself.’ (more…)

Creating good flow in your text

The problem

Something students, in fact all writers, perhaps especially lawyers, often struggle with is the flow of their text. We work with arguments, ideas and concepts that develop as we systematically work our way through the material. As we think about and write, we are continuously building a mental reference framework which guides us through the complex maize we call law and, more specifically, our argument. We might not always be aware thereof, but this framework makes our thought and writing much clearer to us than to, say, a reader of our work. Our poor readers, who are not privy to this mental goldmine, need to be taken by the hand and led through our writing to make sense of things. (more…)

International Law 341: The Literature Review

From the International Law 341 consultations I have had so far it is clear that students are struggling to understand and formulate a literature review. Here are a few pointers that could assist you:

  • A literature review should consist of approximately 500-600 words – this means you are looking at approximately 3 – 4 paragraphs. The aim of a literature review is for you to find a few relevant, comparable sources, that could be 3 or 5 sources depending on the topic. However, the sources has to be authoritative, comparable and relevant.
  • Essentially a literature review tells your reader what specific part of a specific source is going to assist you to answers a specific research question or sub-question or assist you to reach a specific research aim.
  • It is important to understand that your literature review is not a list of sources with a short description of each one. Or merely copying each source in your bibliography with a short description.

Consultation slots are quickly filling up so if you have any technical questions, do not hesitate to make use of our Facebook platform which you can access here

Best of luck!

Chantelle Hough Louw

Research and Writing about Legal Writing: A Foreword from the Editor

More has been said about the writing of lawyers and judges than of any other group, except of course, poets and novelists. The difference is that while the latter have usually been admired for their writing, the public has almost always damned lawyers and judges for theirs. If this state of affairs has changed in recent times, it is only in that many lawyers and judges have now joined the rest of the world in complaining about the quality of legal prose.

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