In Honor of the Man Behind ‘The Legal Writer’
Over the past 20 years and 150 issues of The Journal, Hon. Gerald Lebovits has educated us lifelong learners on the finer points of legal writing with practical, real world advice in his column, “The Legal Writer,” that concludes each issue of The Journal.
Through his wise and incisive writing, he has demonstrated how to draft winning arguments, tighten sentences, eliminate awkward language, remove redundancies, and strive for clarity. He has inspired our readers with styles as diverse as Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s literary technique, Pulitzer-Prize winning author Toni Morrison’s poetic prose, horror writer Stephen King’s emphasis on storytelling and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s straightforward approach.
His last column, on our treasured former Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye’s uncanny ability to write with such clarity and attention to detail, ranks among his very best columns, which is no small feat. He carefully examines her legal scholarship and advice on how to write for the intended audience.
“The Legal Writer” has been so popular that it has been turned into not one, but two NYSBA reference publications: “The Legal Writer: Writing It Right” and “The Legal Writer: Drafting New York Civil-Litigation Documents.” His large following extends beyond New York, as other bar associations frequently share the latest “Legal Writer” column on their social media pages.
But that’s not all.
Judge Lebovits has also written for The Journal on judicial wellness and other issues. He has contributed 20 articles to our section publications, including the New York Real Property Law Journal and the International Law Practicum. He was the lead co-author of 13 editions of the NYSBA publication New York Residential Landlord-Tenant Law and Procedure, as well as nine editions of the LEGALese pamphlet “Tenant Screening Reports and Tenant Blacklisting.”
He has been a speaker on hundreds of well-attended continuing legal education programs ranging from persuasive legal writing to landlord-tenant issues to professional ethics. Whenever he is asked to present, Judge Lebovits’ answer is always yes. He once took his vacation week and presented CLE programs for NYSBA on legal writing across the state in Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Westchester, Albany, Long Island and New York City.
Lebovits also has been an adjunct professor of law for 32 years, currently at Columbia, Fordham and NYU. The students at Fordham, New York Law School, and St. John’s have each elected him Adjunct Law Professor of the Year. Some of his publications are required or recommended reading at many American law schools.
How he served as an adjunct professor at three law schools, was a judge, and wrote so prolifically is a question many readers had, but naturally Judge Lebovits made it look easy. He simply viewed it as his personal contributions to the bench and bar, which are nothing short of outstanding. The fact that he is as well known for his sense of humor and the ability to make everyone feel at ease underscores his accomplishments even more.
Judge Lebovits once said, “I’ll be happy if my readers come away appreciating the importance of legal writing –an importance not merely to their clients but also to the honest and good administration of justice.”
On behalf of NYSBA’s 70,000 members and many happy readers, we have.
From “The Legal Writer” to your engaging CLE presentations to teaching so many law students and law clerks, you have taught us all and made us better lawyers. There is no more prolific writer in the State Bar’s history and no member has contributed more to our continued legal education. This is truly the end of a remarkable era. I hope your free time is now spent with your beloved family and enjoying a long, well-deserved ride on your motorcycle.
Your legacy in the New York State Bar Association and the practice of law is assured. I thank you for your indelible contributions to the NYSBA Journal and the practice of law, your uncommon collegiality and your peerless dedication to the association. You are a pillar of the legal profession.
T. Andrew Brown