Archive for the ‘Law and Writing’ Category

Do You Miss It? by Debra H. Goldstein

December 22, 2014 22 comments

scales of justiceDO YOU MISS IT? by Debra H. Goldstein

“Do you miss it?” Four simple words comprise the question most asked of me in the year since I stepped down from the job I held for twenty-three years and could have stayed in for life. “Do you miss it?”

My answer always is the same “No. Well, maybe a little.”

I don’t miss the structured days or the responsibility to be on the bench no matter how I felt because I owed it to the public. I don’t miss some of the petty changes in government that occurred over the years nor do I miss some of the internal office bickering. What I miss are the people.

I miss my daily interaction with people I cared deeply about. Not knowing about their lives, their children, their worries, and their successes or seeing their smiles of satisfaction from quietly serving the public can’t be replaced.

bookAlthough I recently lost my mother, 2014 was a magical year for me. The career change I dreamed about actually occurred. Not only was my first novel, Maze in Blue, reissued as a May 2014 selection by Harlequin Worldwide Mystery, but two short stories were included in bound anthologies, six were published either in on-line magazines or print journals, and one was selected to be read aloud on “Telling Tales with Ms.G”on Alaskan Radio Station W-KTOO. Even more exciting, I’ve already inked contracts for things to be published in 2015 and possibly 2016.juggling woman

The outgrowth of the publications, whether online, as a conference attendee, at book signings, or when I’m an invited guest speaker has been an opportunity to meet fantastic people. These new relationships, even more than the thrill of seeing my thoughts in print, has been the most satisfying thing to me in 2014. The world of writers and readers has embraced me during the past year – and for that I am grateful.

Do I miss what I used to do? A little, but I can honestly say that in 2014, I jumped out of bed every day ready to experience something new. That is a joy for which I can only say “Thank you.”

Happy Holidays!

Guest Blogger: Paula Gail Benson – What Taking the Bar Exam Taught Me About Writing

April 14, 2014 13 comments
Paula Gail Benson

Paula Gail Benson

What Taking the Bar Exam Taught Me about Writing

by Paula Gail Benson

Just having a law degree doesn’t make you a lawyer. Most states require that a law school graduate pass a bar examination to work and have the title “attorney.” Bar review courses of six-to-eight weeks help law school grads prepare for bar exams, which are grueling three-day marathons of mostly essay questions to be answered in set time periods.

The professor who taught test taking strategy in my bar review course was a meticulous man, a consummate lawyer, and an excellent writer. He did not make idle promises, but he assured us that if we followed his technique, we would improve our scores on the essay portion of the test.

He was correct. I used his method and have advised many law students to do the same. I credit it with helping me pass the bar exam.

This what he recommended:

(1) Read the question and see who it asks you to be. Usually, this is one of three choices: (a) an attorney being consulted by a potential client, (b) an attorney being asked to defend a client, or (c) a judge deciding a case.

(2) Write the first sentence of your answer based on who you are asked to be and how youwould resolve the situation. For example, “I am [the attorney advising or bookdefending a client or the judge deciding the case] and I would resolve the matter by [advising my client about his rights or deciding the case this way].”

(3) Write out your reasoning for the advice or decision. List it out point by point.

(4) If, during the reasoning process, you decide your initial statement was wrong, go back and correct it.

(5) Complete your answer with the following statement: “In conclusion, I as [the attorney or judge] would [advise my client or decide the case] in this manner _____________________.”

Why is the technique so beneficial? It gives the exam taker a framework for completing the task and signals to the exam grader that the answer was thought-out and well-organized.

How can it benefit other types of writing? It shows the writer the scope of his work and provides the reader with a full story.

A full story. That’s the key, isn’t it?

People expect a story (and an argument) to have a beginning, middle, and end. If you give them that framework, they’ll stick with you until the story is done. They’ll have a sense that not only is the story well-plotted, but also that it’s complete and satisfying.

So, how would I make the bar review advice applicable to fiction writing?

(1) Start by figuring out who your main character is, when the story occurs, and where it ends. Think about the first stories you heard. Don’t they begin with “once upon a time” or a human or animal character in a particular place, like Peter Rabbit at home with his family, but looking longingly at the forbidden garden?

(2) Write a brief synopsis of your story. For example, “Once upon a time, after going to the ball, Cinderella married her prince.”

(3) Now, spell out in greater detail how Cinderella achieved her objective. Reason it out step by step.

She was a poor girl whose father died. She lived with her jealous step-mother and step-sisters. They made her do all the chores around the house and sleep in the cinders. When they received an invitation to meet the prince at the ball, they told Cinderella she would have to stay at home.

cinderellaFortunately, Cinderella had a fairy godmother who by magic helped Cinderella attend the ball. The fairy godmother encouraged Cinderella, telling her she had all the qualities to be a princess. However, Cinderella would have to follow certain rules to go to the ball because magic has its limitations.

Cinderella went, had a wonderful time, and met her prince. She forgot about the rules, so she returned home without the magic that had enabled her journey.

The prince found one of Cinderella’s enchanted shoes. Because it was a bit of the magic fitted to her, only she could wear it. The prince tried the shoe on every female foot in the kingdom.

When her step-mother and sisters tried to hide her away, Cinderella remembered what her fairy godmother had told her about her princess-like qualities. She took the prince’s horse some water. He saw her, and offered her a chance to try on the shoe.

(4) If, during the reasoning process, you decide your initial statement was wrong, go back and correct it.

Cinderella has a lot just happening to her. If she’s really the protagonist, she needs to face her own obstacles and work things out for herself.

That synopsis should be: “Once upon a time, after struggling to attend the ball and finding ways to believe in and assert herself, Cinderella created her own magic by taking charge of her life and agreeing to marry her prince.”

(5) Complete your story with a satisfying ending: “In conclusion, because Cinderella courageously took advantage of her opportunities and creatively followed her own path, she found her prince and lived happily ever after.”


I would add one more step to the modified bar review advice. This suggestion is from Rob Parnell’s The Easy Way to Write Short Stories that Sellbooks that sell

Practice writing short stories and finishing them with “THE END.” Doing this enough times helps you create your own magic and provides you with the confidence that you have what it takes to be a writer.

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Paula Gail Benson is a legislative attorney and former law librarian. Her short stories have been published in Kings River Life, the Bethlehem Writers Roundtable, Mystery Times Ten 2013 (Buddhapuss Ink), and A Tall Ship, a Star, and Plunder (Dark Oak Press and Media, released January 20, 2014). She regularly blogs with others about writing mysteries at Writers Who Kill. Her personal blog is Little Sources of Joy, and her website is