There is an interesting discussion
by Stephen Walt over at Foreign Policy on why academic writing is so
bad. It is a subject academics are reluctant to discuss, yet there is
no doubt that much of what passes as legal scholarship is dull,
disagreeable, undigestable. ...
My own sense is that legal scholarship is better than most academic
writing because we are trained at law school and in law firms to be
convincing and comprehensible. Once in the academy, we are further
trained to reach two audiences: our academic peers and our student
gatekeepers who hold the keys to the kingdom. Obscurity may be
appropriate for one audience, but not the other. Our law student
underlords save us from the trap of most other academics.
So why does legal scholarship still miss the mark?
First, legal scholarship is formulaic. There is an order and predictability to legal writing that stifles creativity. ...
Second, legal scholarship is prosaic. Many legal scholars are more
interested in arguments than words. We love the research, but not the
writing. We are “ideasmiths” rather than wordsmiths. ...
Third, legal scholarship has a footnote fetish. ...
Fourth, legal scholarship is technical. ... Great legal writing often is about taking dry
and tedious ingredients and transforming them into agreeable fare. It
will not keep your teenager from rolling her eyes when you explain what
you did at work today, but it should keep your colleagues and students
from giving up in frustration.