How an Attorney Writes

Dave Tuason ’03, J.D.
Villiger Speech and Debate Coach

Quick Facts

Favorite place to write?

Favorite punctuation?

Favorite word?

Oxford comma or no?
No Oxford comma

SJU WRITES: What kind of writing do you do for your job?
DT: I’m an attorney, so I litigate cases. I write a lot. I actually have to do briefs. I manage a case of 50 or 60 cases. For many of the cases, I have to write briefs for the court—full of motions, precedents, questions for summary judgment. I also have to write memos to my supervisors for certain things or case evaluations to get cases out, so writing is probably 90 percent of my job now.

SJU WRITES: Typically, how long are your arguments going into a case?
DT: It would depend on the case and how many arguments we have. You want to keep things to maybe 10 pages or 15 pages because you don’t want the law clerk that will be reading the brief to fall asleep. I really find more succinct arguments are the ones that work, so I try to keep it as short as I can. Eliminate unnecessary words. It’s really key to that.

SJU WRITES: Do you have a set revision process?
DT: I’ll try to shorten sentences and cut out unnecessary words, and then it will go through my supervisor before I follow up with the court. I’ll read his revisions, and then I’ll submit it to the court. But because we have such a high-volume practice, it’s hard to really get the nitty-gritty of things.

SJU WRITES: Do you write with a certain thought process or is it more a matter of checking boxes to finish what you need to tackle?
DT: When I do have time, I will try to make an outline first, just to understand the big picture of what I’m trying to accomplish. The misconception for writing is that a lot of people think that writing big words is the best thing to do, but in the legal profession, it’s best to simplify things so anyone can understand it, so really a fifth grader could understand it. It allows you to skim it and get what they’re trying to say where if someone uses big fancy words you wouldn’t use in everyday language, it’s confusing. That’s definitely been part of my development as a writer.

SJU WRITES: Is there any writing you are expecially proud of?
DT: My latest brief that I won in federal court. It was a constitutional issue, a 14th amendment challenge. I was really proud because I did a lot of research for it, and it took a lot of days to do. Without the assistance of my boss, I was able to prevail in district court. It was also a culmination of my writing.

—Christopher Pendleton ’20