Practical Stepping-Stones to a Publishable Legal Journal Article

Introduction

When you choose to write and publish a legal journal article (‘‘Article’’), it can often pose a daunting task, demand lots of your time and yet, at the same time, present you with multifarious benefits, for instance, the opportunity to take a nosedive into your favourite topics, hone your analytical, interpretational and drafting skills, highlight your expertise, and finally, build on track-record. That mentioned, composing a winning entry takes practice and this blog aspires to serve the above functions. Additionally, be it in your salad days or at any other level in your career, adhering to the key pointers mentioned below would prove handy in significantly retaining your time and effort, assist you in devising a plan ahead in time in the form of mental roadmaps, taking to novel approaches and most importantly, draw upon the much-needed structure to your Article.

Key Allies for a Successful Article

I have collated a list forming six-pointers that by no means is exhaustive and reads as follows:

  • Picking a Dance Partner: Generic Vs Specific

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to picking an Article topic (‘‘Topic’’). Perhaps, conducting a literature review in your area of interest (‘‘Interest’’) before picking your Topic would be sensible. Consider taking ample time to read a selection of already published pieces relevant to your Interest. This not only garners insight into the prevailing literature available in your Interest but serves to identify any gaps in current knowledge.  A healthy practice entails, opting for a specific Topic and narrowing its scope, this would heighten your chances of Topic acceptance by the authority to whom you are submitting it.

  • Know Thy Audience, Know Thy Nature!

Identify your target audience, it makes the desired difference.

Are you writing for a more general audience or experts in the same field as you? Ideally, the Topic you have chosen hints at the type of audience that will read your work.
Concurrently, reflect on whether your Article is practical or academic in nature. In other words, an academic Article though aligned with the intentions of the law, may be too idealistic for commercial practices and therefore, lack the smarts to appreciate the practical aspects in the commercial context or vice versa. Identifying your target audience and the nature of your Article helps weed out irrelevant information.

  • It Takes Two to Tango: Keep the reader’s perspective in mind

Consider reading your article through the lens of your readers, what would it be like to be in their shoes? Often, one would be tempted to include jargon, excessive legalese, and ambiguous language in their article. Counter-intuitively, following this approach would certainly lead your reader to a potential dead-end. Decorating your Article with legalese would be an ‘unnecessary embellishment’ and contributes nothing to effective writing other than an annoyingly legalistic tone.
Clarity is Key! I strive to follow, what I would like to term ‘‘K.I.S.S’’ (Keep It Short & Simple) Always remember, ‘‘writing that is easy to read, is easier to understand’’. Use unambiguous, certain, and clear language in your Article to attract the widest readership. Focus on the main message of your Article to sustain the attention of your readers and keep from wavering their focus. Wavering focus is not uncommon and stymies effective communication.

  • Perfection vs. Progress

Possibly, the best advice I have received is ‘‘Just Do It’’. Unsurprisingly, it finds its way into the trademark of the world’s largest athletic apparel company, Nike.
A writer is greeted with uncertainty when taking up the commitment of publishing an Article. There are two, rather opposing approaches, she can take to such uncertainty, on the one hand, a proactive, spontaneous approach striving for improvement and embracing the unknown even during unideal times and on the other hand, a vigilant approach avoiding progress for the mere sake of it, and at the looming risk of making matters worse.[1] A writer may choose to opt for one of the above two approaches when dealing with the uncertainties of Article writing and publishing.

The former approach – When a writer enters the flow of writing, she is often met with a cornucopia of imagination and ideas, aspirations, collective engagements, clarity of thoughts, creativity and more – I say, when possible, jot those ideas down into writing immediately!
This approach will constantly present you with opportunities to experiment daily and give birth to novel ideas. An orchestra has myriad talents but the conductor (the writer in this case) brings them together to move the dial.

‘‘Do not wait for the stars to juxtapose to take action’’

What I have come to learn in writing is that there is no perfect structure or draft to an Article, there is only trial and error that goosesteps into progress. I found it rewarding by sticking to the commitment of maintaining a basic structure to my Article in the form of sub-headings. This forms a skeleton to my Article, and as I venture and stumble deeper into my research, I ensure to consistently flesh this skeleton with richer content. This premise is supported by what Denzel Washington had once famously said:

‘Without commitment, you’ll never start, but more importantly, without consistency, you’’ never finish’’.
On the contrary, at times when I took to the approach to that of the latter, the nub of the issue ensued from the notion of standing still – think of the writers you have come across having their cups brimming with ideas – but not walking the talk, and this tardiness is paid for heavily, in the form of no publications.

  • The devil will be in the detail of the spec

If you want to make a good impression and nail your delivery, ‘‘USE GRAMMARLY!’’. Be it for the drafting of my university thesis, Articles or even drafting a simple email, in any event rather, on countless occasions I have used Grammarly as a tool to invigorate my writing experience.
It helps me in formatting, editing, and even plagiarizing my writing pieces. Additionally, every writing detail that affects the accuracy of my work is detected with razor-sharp precision and therefore, I enthusiastically urge you to use Grammarly as a tool to take your writing experience up a notch.

  • ‘Feedback is the Breakfast of Champions’’ – Ken Blanchard[2]

This quote sums it up. Once you have finished writing your Article, be receptive to the idea of receiving feedback, be it from your peers, experts in the field, your seniors and oddly yet, more importantly, laymen.  Yes, laymen! Allow me to elaborate, if the content in your Article, at least most of its part, the basic terms of which are grasped, or are clearly comprehended by laymen means only that, you have played the perfect courtier to the royal court of effective writing and communication. This premise is debatable, the great Albert Einstein takes it up a notch with the words, ‘‘If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself’’.[3]

Conclusion

These practical tips do not guarantee an Article publication, nevertheless, these tips would serve useful as stepping-stones from which one can begin to comprehend and break down the prevailing challenges of a published Article. From here on in, always remember these words, ‘‘For legal writing is an art that requires deep thought, better understanding, greater skill, and in-depth analysis at its core: every last muscle of it!’’

Author(s) Name :Tynan Menezes (University of Law, London)

References:

[1] Prof Maxi Scherer, ‘Remote Hearings in International Arbitration: An Analytical Framework’ (2020) J. Int. Arbitr. 37(4)

[2]Ken Blanchard, ‘Feedback is the Breakfast of Champions’ (kenblanchardbooks, 9 August 2017)

https://www.kenblanchardbooks.com/feedback-is-the-breakfast-of-champions/accessed 21 April 2022

[3]STUBER////, “If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself”

(medium, 4 December 2017) https://medium.com/@struber/if-you-cant-explain-it-to-a-six-year-old-you-don-t-understand-it-yourself-6a632135127b#:~:text=Albert%20Einstein%20most%20famously%20said,basic%20and%20step%20by%20step.accessed 5 May 2022

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