Did I request what you thought?

As I have mentioned previously, being a lawyer tends to mean being a writer, and being a good lawyer means striving to be a good writer. The lawyering crowd I run with (okay, okay, lawyers don’t, per se, “run”) is heavily populated with people who are a little obsessed on this score. For those of you considering now whether you want to apply to law school, let me share with you a little e-mail tête-à-tête that was carried on throughout the night between two friends, while I was eating dinner and sleeping, like a normal person. Friend 1—XXX—was reviewing a draft of a colleague’s brief, and finding the final sentence a little wanting; Friend 2—YYY—was called in to consult on why, exactly, the sentence didn’t work. Friend 3—that would be me—was blissfully ignorant of the entire conversation.

If writing about writing in the middle of the night in this flyspecking way seems like the stuff of nightmares—if your reaction to XXX’s concern is “who cares?!?”–throw that consideration into the pot as you mull your future career options. Because honestly, this sort of conversation tends to give the lawyers I know a lot of joy. (NB: this has been edited to omit the occasional obscenity; caring about writing does not necessarily mean having an aversion to cursing.).

-Dean Z. Assistant Dean for Admissions and Special Counsel for Professional Strategies


From: XXX To: “Zearfoss, Sarah”; YYY Sent: Mon Aug 30 18:49:57 2010 Subject: Would you say this?

Appellant respectfully requests this Court to reverse his convictions and order a new trial.

From: YYY To: XXX Cc: , “Zearfoss, Sarah” Sent: Mon Aug 30 22:57:45 2010 Subject: Re: Would you say this?

if I were an idiot.

From: XXX To: YYY Cc: , “Zearfoss, Sarah” Sent: Mon Aug 30 23:52:38 2010 Subject: Re: Would you say this?

But why does “asks” sound okay while “requests” sounds idiotic? Is it because “requests” implies the “to,” so it seems redundant? I am not making this up, right?

From: YYY To: XXX Cc: , “Zearfoss, Sarah” Sent: Tue Aug 31 01:23:45 2010 Subject: Re: Would you say this?

just because “ask” is a verb where the direct object is the person you’re asking, not the thing you’re requesting, and uses the word “to.” “Request” is a verb where the direct object is what you’re requesting (e.g., the clause “that the Court remand for a new trial”). I mean, just because you request a document doesn’t mean you ask a document. Words are different. Deal with it, people.