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Lawyers have a unique and highly technical manner of writing, one that differs significantly from standard English. Legal education involves an indoctrination into this new discourse, a process that ends when one awakens to find oneself writing in a manner that once seemed impossibly obscure. Of course, the mastery of legal language reflects a paradigm shift in thought, sometimes called "learning to think like a lawyer" or "seeing things from a legal perspective." The conceptual scheme and language of the law are so different from the ordinary way of thinking that Lord Coke was perhaps correct when he characterized the law as "artificial reason."

Law students typically undergo a conversion experience during the first year of law school, when they begin to see the world in terms of property, contracts, torts, and remedies. For the great majority of students, this conversion is irreversible; once taught to think like a lawyer, the dye is cast and it is only a matter of time until the existing legal framework seems natural and inevitable. Although this conversion process lasts for months, most lawyers forget or repress their initial struggle to master legal concepts and to express themselves in legal terminology. Once acquired, the technical language of the law becomes a pair of glasses that one looks through but not at, a mere tool that does not merit contemplation in its own right. From day-to-day, lawyers are immersed in a specialized manner of writing to the point where they no longer pay attention to it, much as a person can wear a suit and tie for years without reflecting on it. Perhaps this helps to explain why legal scholars have failed to treat legal writing as a genre worthy of legal scholarship in its own right,2 and why law schools generally treat legal writing as a skills course instead of a substantive course.