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What Is the Purpose of Writing to Learn?

One of the most common questions I get asked as a writer is, “Why do you write?” It’s a fair question. After all, I can’t write a business memo, report, or blog post about my previous work experiences, can I? However, that doesn’t mean that my writing is without purpose. Far from it! As a matter of fact, I believe that my writing is highly effective and has several important uses. Here’s a short list. I hope it helps you understand the value of writing for the following purposes:

Examine An Idea Or Argument

One of the most important things about writing is that you can examine an idea or argument without bias. If you have a strong opinion about something, whether it’s politically controversial or just an opinion you hold as a matter of taste, you have to wonder whether or not you’re going to be able to examine the idea or argument with an open mind. It’s one of the things that make writing such a valuable tool. When you write, you’re essentially putting your ideas or arguments into words, which allows you to examine them more effectively. If I were to put it into practice, I would write down my opinions on various topics, especially those that I’m passionate about. Then, when I need to examine an idea or argument, I would do so without bias and with a fresh set of eyes.

Create A Historical Record

Another important use for writing is to create a historical record. During my first year of law school, I interned at a medium sized law firm in New York City. One of my duties was to copy historical trial transcripts and briefs from journals and older cases. It was tiresome work, which I enjoyed less than others. The problem was that I didn’t have much time to myself, thanks to the high volume of work I had to handle. In the evenings and on the weekends, I would find myself reading through cases, looking for points of law that I could incorporate into my own writing. Eventually, I began to see the value in this exercise. By writing down key facts and legal arguments as they occurred, I was able to recreate what happened during a trial or negotiation session as closely as possible and then be able to explain it later. When I read older cases or trial transcripts years later, I was able to see key points and details more clearly and were better able to understand them.

Improve Discussion And Negotiation Skills

Many people, myself included, believe that writing is highly effective in helping us improve our communication skills and negotiation prowess. If you’re in a position where you have to negotiate with a vendor or provider for services, whether it’s for a business deal or a new client, you can practice your negotiating skills with the help of some writing. One of the most famous books on negotiation is Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher and William Ury. If you’re unfamiliar, Getting to Yes is all about finding common ground and creative problem solving, which essentially boils down to effective communication and negotiation skills. In the book, Fisher and Ury propose that we should write down our side of the argument before the conversation begins. This allows us to identify key points and issues before approaching the problem. Then, during the negotiation process, we can refer back to our previous written material, check for understanding, and make adjustments as needed. In some cases, a detailed written analysis can even help us determine who’s responsible for a particular issue or problem. In short, writing is a great tool for improving our communication and negotiation skills.

Become More Objective

As a lawyer, I find that writing is an effective way to become more objective. Lawyers, by nature, are very subjective people. We see the world through a very personal lens, from the way we view other cases to the way we form opinions on what might or might not happen in a given situation. In my experience, very few lawyers can take a step back and be completely objective about a case. However, occasionally, I’ll come across a legal brief or an analysis that makes me question everything I think I know about the case. In those situations, I will often turn to my notes, or if I’m lucky, my computer, to search for the evidence that proves or disproves my opinion. In some instances, my notes alone will be enough and I won’t have to look for any additional evidence. In other instances, I might find that the analysis of the case is deeply flawed and I’ll have to look for supporting evidence or a counter argumentative analysis. In any case, writing down my opinions and reviewing them frequently reminds me that I have a bias and that my opinions can, and often do, change. It’s a great way to keep my mind open and create a historical record of my thinking process, as it evolves through new evidence and/or argumentation. In this way, writing can help me maintain a healthy skepticism about my opinions and the conclusions I draw from evidence, especially when I’m arguing a case in court, negotiating with a client, or presenting an opinion in a legal brief.

Examine Specific Policy Or Regulatory Issues

As a legal policy analyst, I often have to write about specific regulatory issues or areas of law that come up in the news. For example, I might have to analyze the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act or FCPA for a particular company, or I might have to examine the National Labor Relations Act or NLRA for a group of employees. In these situations, I find that writing is extremely effective, as I have to pull data from several different sources and synthesize it into a cohesive argument, all while staying within the confines of an academic essay. To give you some idea of the value of this approach, if I were to take the same information and put it into a legal brief, it would likely run several pages single spaced. As a matter of fact, a 20 to 30 page legal brief is considered to be the minimum length for a non-trivial legal filing. In some cases, I’ll even have to write my conclusion first, before I can write about the relevant law and facts. In this way, I can ensure that I don’t make any factual errors or legal errors in the same argument. In a nutshell, specific policy issues require a lot of analysis and there’s a lot of data to sift through. For this reason, I think that writing is an incredibly effective tool for legal policy analysis.

Helpful For Professionals In Any Field

In some cases, I’ve found that writing is a great way to help myself analyze the following situations: