Michael Higdon, associate professor of law and director of legal writing, recently was published in the December issue of the Tennessee Bar Journal, which serves as the official monthly publication of the Tennessee Bar Association.
Higdon’s article, “The Thesis Sentence: Communicating with the Impatient, Skeptical Legal Reader,” delves into the components of a successful thesis sentence, which Higdon says is “one of the most crucial skills every attorney must master in order to be an excellent legal writer.” Throughout the piece, Higdon examines the thesis sentence from the perspective of the legal reader, as well as the perspective of the legal writer. He also addresses ways to make a thesis sentence more persuasive.
“I constantly remind students that legal writing is technical writing. More specifically, I tell them that there is little difference between the documents they are drafting and the user manual that came with their smart phone — both are documents that 1) nobody ever wants to read and 2) for those unfortunate souls who have to read them, they want to be able to read them quickly and only one time through in order to glean all the necessary information,” concludes Higdon. “Thesis sentences are … one of the easiest fixes a legal writer can immediately employ to greatly improve both the readability and cohesion of his document.”
Higdon has taught legal writing for more than 10 years and currently serves as a member of the national board of directors for the Legal Writing Institute.