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It all started after I wrote an article for The Lawyer Daily. I had already written a few legal articles for publication, providing commentary on interesting case law and current developments. But one day my editor asked me for a more personal article, reflecting on the impact of COVID-19 on me and my professional trajectory. At first I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to find the words, but it was a pleasant surprise how easily the words came out of me.
From there, I preferred to write opinion pieces. Share pieces of myself with others, while gaining confidence in my writing style. It occurred to me – maybe I’m a good writer? At least one writer that’s decent enough that some people might enjoy reading my work?
Strong positive feedback for my articles in The Lawyer Daily, I decided to take the plunge and pursue my lifelong dream of writing a novel. And guess what? I did it! Free plug: Discover A deadly truth by Rachel Goldenberg for some fun holiday read! The link is below in my author bio.) Inspired by John Grisham, Scott Turow, William Landay and so many other lawyers turned writers, I wrote a psychological thriller with a lawyer as the protagonist. As they say, write down what you know.
Writing a novel has been an incredible, terrifying therapeutic experience. It was so different from anything I had written before. I started my legal career by drafting pleadings, affidavits and do. How to write about characters who do not exist? How do I breathe life into ideas that I had only imagined until now?
I started with the basics. I started with what I learned as a lawyer. Just like an affidavit, tell the facts. Determine the story you want to tell and, in consecutive order, state each fact. And that’s exactly what I did, laying out a 10 page factual overview to tell my story.
But 10 pages of facts is not very interesting. It’s useful for a motion, setting out the evidence needed to prove your position, but it’s flat. I switched to my persuasive writing skills. Just like an oral argument, you set the stage for the facts and you describe the big picture. Much like a factum, you put a twist on your position to persuade the reader to believe your story.
Finally, I had to tackle the last layer of the story, the most delicate: adding emotions. You want your reader to not only believe in your story, but to feel it. Meet these characters and invest in them. To identify with them. Grounding for the protagonist (or antagonist, no judgment here). This was the hardest part for me because it was so different from all of my previous legal writing experiences.
It went against all my training as a lawyer. Image writing an affidavit in support of a motion that includes descriptive backgrounds and emotional ideas. Imagine what the cross-examinations on these affidavits would look like! But as lawyers, do we go too far and sometimes forget about emotions? While this might just be another issue for us, for our clients, it’s their life. The stakes are high. The process, and even the result, can be traumatic. It can be easy to forget as a lawyer.
So what did I learn about the legal profession from writing a book? I have learned that being a lawyer has taught me invaluable writing skills. It taught me to write effectively and convincingly. But I also learned that being a lawyer has the potential to crush my emotional side. That sometimes we need to activate our sympathy and empathy when dealing with customers. I also learned that deep within me was an artistic and imaginative storyteller waiting to be released.
And I released her. I wrote a book. How cool is that? For all the other lawyers who have a secret aspiration to write a detective novel, I urge you to do so. Try something new. Push your limits. What’s the worst that can happen? You crash and burn and no one reads your book?
Oh no. I hope I don’t crash and burn. Please read my book!
Rachel Goldenberg is Executive Property Manager at Adams & Waks Construction and author of A deadly truth.
Interested in writing for us? Find out more about how you can add your voice to The Lawyer Daily, contact analysis editor Peter Carter at [email protected] or call 647-776-6740.