“What we’ve got here is failure to communicate,” says the Captain, leader of a Florida chain gang, right before hitting Luke Jackson with a leather sap in the 1967 film Cool Hand Luke. In a spark of rebellion, Luke repeats the phrase at the end of the film—moments prior to getting shot.
As lawyers, we can’t afford communication failures. We need to communicate effectively. And to do so, we must write well. While poor legal writing will not, on most occasions, result in sap beatings or shootings, it could lead to client confusion or detrimental outcomes in court. Thus, learning and fine-tuning effective legal writing techniques remain critical to effective lawyering.
The complete article, "Failure to Communicate,” first appeared in The Reporter (Vol. 44, Number 2), a publication of the Office of The Judge Advocate General of the United States Air Force.