If you have an interest in law and a passion for writing, a career as a legal writer may be for you. Maybe you have a background in law, but you want your career to go in a slightly different direction.
Legal writers write legal documents. This includes contracts, agreements, memoranda, and other documents that require legal terminology. They may write for legal firms, law firm websites, or work as a freelancer.
As a legal writer, you research, draft, and edit content pertaining to the legal industry. A legal writer must analyze their target audience, and tailor their writing to them. Legal writing involves having in-depth knowledge about law, legal terms, and having excellent research skills. You may have to study and summarize case law, analyze industry events, draft contracts, and other legal documents. It all depends on the legal section you choose to focus on.
Given the immense demand for multiple types of legal writing, a legal writer has a lot of job opportunities. There is a broad range of legal writing jobs available. It varies depending on the legal research skills, requirements of the law firms, and your knowledge about legal topics.
Table of Contents
What is Legal Writing?
The purpose of legal writing is to inform, persuade, or to do both. Legal writing analyzes patterns and presents arguments in legal briefs and memos.
Types of Legal Writing
There are a few main types of legal writing:
- Analyzing a legal problem or issue. For example, writing letters to clients to inform them about the status of their case or requesting action from them. This may also include writing letters to other lawyers, letters to opposing parties, and so on.
- Presenting a persuasive case for a legal issue by conducting legal research and incorporating relevant legal precedents.
- Drafting legal documents such as wills or contracts.
The most common legal writing jobs are brief writers, legal analysts, legal correspondents, feature writers, web writers, corporate writers or legal editors.
Brief writers write legal briefs. This includes details about a law case, the statement, argument, dispute concern, and other information. Briefs must also state why the claim must be won or lost and the order granted or reversed. Brief writers must write down all of the vital information, such as the briefs, legal memoranda, motions, and other legal documents. Brief writers work for lawyers or law firms.
Qualifications: As a brief writer, you must at least have a college degree. In some cases, you may also need prior experience in the field.
A legal analyst, also known as a legal assistant, must be informed about different laws and legal documents. Legal analysts must conduct legal research and gather data for court cases. They also draft contracts, memos, file litigations, and other legal documents.
As a legal analyst, you may also write news summaries and analyze the industry's latest developments for online legal websites.
Qualification: To be a legal analyst, you must have a law degree and some experience in the field. However, you do not need to be a licensed attorney.
Correspondents are legal professionals who report on news related to criminal justice or other legal matters. They often work near a courthouse for the state or county.
Legal correspondents are different from general news analysts because news analysts work for broadcasting networks.
Qualification: To be a legal correspondent, you must be an excellent attorney. You must also have an eye for detail, and a solid set of skills to conduct legal analysis.
Feature writers write for journals and magazines in the legal industry. The magazines may have news about the latest industry events, information for attorneys, and advice for lawyers and law firms. Some common examples include the ABA Journal by the American Bar Association.
Feature articles can be opinion pieces on legal matters that pertain to a particular place, person, or event. As a feature writer, you must write compelling narratives that interest the reader and grab their attention.
Qualifications: To be a feature writer, you must have good writing skills and the knowledge of conducting deep legal research. That is because such legal professionals often have to write about trends, facts, and the latest happenings in the legal industry.
Web writers write for law firm websites or other law-based internet sites that feature legal content. Online publications are a great place to aim your career if you are interested in discussing the latest legal current events, or talking about a variety of different legal topics. Legal web writers can also write how-to blogs, where they educate readers about legal topics.
Qualifications: To be a web writer, you must have basic knowledge about legal terms and good research skills. You must also know how to write web copy for SEO.
The purpose of a corporate writer is to be the medium of communication between a corporation and its audience. Corporate writers must not only be well versed in legal matters but must also maintain a tone of voice that matches their corporation. Corporate writers handle legal work for law firms and other businesses.
Some types of documents that corporate writers create are:
- Press releases
- Annual reports
- Business letters
- White papers
- Leaflets and brochures
- Educational material
- Marketing copy
Qualifications: Corporate writers must have a degree in a field related to business law to match the requirements of most firms.
Legal editors are in charge of reviewing, editing, and proofreading an organization's legal publications. They ensure that the documents are in line with the company's standards and that they are in line with current laws.
A career in legal editing is well suited for someone who is a strong communicator, enjoys law, and is detail-oriented. Legal editors play an important role in the final release of legal publications. The publications may be for law firms and can come in many forms such as web, blogs, or magazines. As a legal editor, you will work in a fast-paced environment with many different movie pieces.
Qualifications: To become a legal editor you must have a law degree, have strong researching skills and be an excellent communicator.
While the exact qualifications may differ between the different types of legal writers, you must at least have a college degree to become a legal writer.
While some specific types of legal writing jobs may require a law degree, all of them are not the same. This mainly applies to the more technical legal writers as you will need a deep understanding of legal terms. For the less technical jobs, a degree in journalism, communication, or other related fields is preferred.
How to Become a Legal Writer?
This step-by-step process will help you pave your way in your technical writing career as a legal writer.
1. High School Diploma
Your first step to becoming a legal writer is getting a high school diploma or a GED.
2. Decide What Type of Legal Writing You Want to Pursue
Before you set out to get a degree, make sure to learn all the different types of legal writing. Some professions, such as brief writing and legal analysis, require a law degree. The less technical legal writing, such as feature articles and corporate writing, do not necessarily need a law degree.
3. Bachelor's Degree
Having a Bachelor's Degree is almost always a requirement in the field of legal writing. You may opt for a degree in law, business, journalism, or communication, depending on the area that you want to focus on.
4. Gain Experience in the Field
Firms prefer legal writers with some experience in the field. You can practice legal writing through technical writing internships, or freelance writing jobs. This will also help you polish your skills, and make you a key player in the job market.
5. Build a Portfolio
Before you apply for a job, you must build a portfolio of samples. Use any work experience you have to build a strong portfolio. If you don't yet have a lot of experience, create example pieces that you can show potential employers. Having a portfolio and a way to display your work is essential.
A legal writer creates a broad range of documents. For lawyers, courts, magazines, newspapers, and even for corporations.
No matter what type of legal writing you pursue, technical writing skills, such as research, excellent communication skills, and good organization are necessary.
If you are new to technical writing and are looking to break in, we recommend taking our Technical Writing Certification Course, where you will learn the fundamentals of being a technical writer, how to dominate technical writer interviews, and how to stand out as a technical writing candidate.