Friday, June 20, 2014

Bring Up the Lawyers

Those who follow me on Twitter know I love to read. I firmly believe reading good writing (of all kinds) is essential to becoming a better legal writer. I justify my "pleasure reading" on that ground and always looks for ways I can use writing styles from my for-fun books in my lawyerly writing.  

I recently finished Bring Up the Bodies, written by Hilary Mantel, who won the Man Booker Prize for Wolf Hall. Both Bodies and Wolf Hall chronicle the events surrounding the schism that led the Church of England to break from the Catholic Church--specifically, the dissolution of Henry VIII's marriage to Katherine of Aragon and his subsequent, ill-fated marriage to Anne Boleyn. The story is told through the eyes of commoner Thomas Cromwell, a lawyer who worked his way into Henry's Court, eventually becoming Henry's chief minister.

Cromwell's take on lawyering--as told by Mantel--is intriguing. In my view, these tidbits from Bodies reflect (for better or worse) a rather common view among lawyers of the role of "truth" in the law:  

"What is the nature of the border between truth and lies? It is permeable and blurred because it is planted thick with rumour, confabulation, misunderstandings and twisted tales. Truth can break the gates down, truth can howl in the street; unless truth is pleasing, personable and easy to like, she is condemned to stay whimpering at the back door."       

"[W]e are not priests. We don't want their sort of confession. We are lawyers. We want the truth little by little and only those parts of it we can use."

Here's hoping you're the type of lawyer who "uses" more truth than you discard.

Happy Friday!

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