Research Writer Interview With Jenny
Law and Political Science
Does being a paralegal help you with your academic writing?
Absolutely. As a paralegal, I have to synthesize massive amounts of information, often in a very short time period. I prepare trial notebooks, draft letters to judges, motions, petitions, and just about every kind of court document you can think of. Unless we hire a private investigator, I am also tasked with collecting evidence. I am a stickler for detail and a citation Nazi because it’s the only way to do my job properly.
It is easy for me to transfer these skills to academic papers. I am accustomed to writing with speed and clarity, without sacrificing the exhaustive research required for a good piece of academic writing. Words are to me what a hammer is to a blacksmith – they are the tools of my trade, and I must wield them as easily as a blacksmith guides his hammer.
What was your most memorable case?
Well, I can’t go into too much detail because of attorney-client privilege. However, one of my favorite cases was a custody dispute in which we managed to change custody from one parent to another. Custody cases are tricky because they often involve two good parents who both love their children, and it is very hard to get a judge to change the status quo without a grave reason, such as documented abuse (that was not the case here, fortunately for the children). The key to success in this situation rested on our superior ability to marshal our evidence and present a convincing argument to the judge. Words are cheap, and proof is worth its weight in gold. Never, ever underestimate the power of good presentation and outstanding citation and cross-referencing. In both academic papers and in court, they can make all the difference in the world.
So you prefer papers oriented toward Political Science, then?
Although I do have a B.A. in Political Science and hands-on experience in the legal field, I actually enjoy writing on a variety of Liberal Arts subjects. Literature is one of my particular strengths; I have published literary criticism and a thesis (my original research on Anna Karenina). I am proficient in Russian and have a soft spot for Russian literature in general, and I enjoy reading and studying it in its original language. Anything with a bit of international flair is also sure to catch my eye.
I am also a senior editor for an interdisciplinary research journal, which publishes the best and the brightest of undergraduate research. I am accustomed to sifting through a variety of writing, from the hard sciences to the social sciences, and can handle a little bit of almost anything. For the longer projects, however, I prefer to stick with my strengths!
What influences shape your writing style?
Working in the legal field has certainly had some influence on my style. The Court’s time is precious and hard to come by, and I have developed a crisp and concise tone in my formal writing.
At the same time, I also value an exquisite turn of phrase and elegant syntax. I am firmly convinced that the only way to write well is to read well, and my writing has also been shaped by years of reading great literature. Some of my favorites are C.S. Lewis, Yann Martel, Tolstoy, and Robert Bolt.
So what now?
I’m not content to just write the motions and briefs and stay in the background. I want to be a main player in the high drama of the courtroom. To do that, I need a law degree, so law school is in my near future. I’d say I’m well prepared to handle the writing workload required of a law student.
Random writer: /writer-melanie