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This essay was written on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Legal Writing Institute (LWI), celebrated at Mercer University School of Law, LWI’s current home. In a sense the essay is retrospective, for it is written to honor the scholars whose work has moved us toward a vision of legal writing scholarship and all it can offer. Many of those experienced and inspiring scholars have kindly offered their advice for inclusion in this essay. That advice is probably the most important content included here, and it is placed, appropriately, at the end of the text as the essay’s capstone section.

Yet the essay primarily looks forward, for it is written to and dedicated to the next generation of scholars whose work will lead the discipline into a future we cannot yet imagine. While the essay may have value for experienced scholars, its primary purpose is to serve as a primer for readers just beginning to build their own writing life, so the essay will speak informally and directly to those particular readers. It will cover some of the hardest parts of the process - the stages and challenges relevant to getting a draft ready for submission. After a few preliminary points, the topics begin with the threshold challenge of finding time to write, followed by sections on the size of the project and the importance of reading, a theme that reappears throughout later stages. Other sections cover finding topic ideas and choosing among them (including the potentially thorny question of whether to write about legal writing); and the role of good mentors and the critical importance of their feedback. Finally, the essay offers a vision of writing as a highly personal and satisfying creative act, one that can enrich and enlarge the lives of writers and readers alike.

Publication Citation

61 Mercer Law Review 867 (2010)