New Jersey Divorce Lawyers – Legal Writing – The MadMan, the Architect, the Carpenter, and the Judge

By: Carl A. Taylor III

A lawyer’s writing ability is one of the most versatile tools he or she will carry in their arsenal.  It’s one of those wonderful skills that is transferable regardless of the area of law being practiced.  For New Jersey Divorce Lawyers, the writing-intensive nature of their job is almost taken for granted.

Perhaps because I am a former English major, I am drawn to the idea of constantly attempting to refine and improve my writing.   Recently, I have been reading Bryan A. Garner’s “Legal Writing in Plain English”–which referenced an interesting and effective writing process I had never before heard of. It’s called the Madman, the Architect, the Carpenter and the Judge, and according to Garner, this process was first created by Dr. Betty Sue Flowers, an English Professor.

Much of this post paraphrases the ideas I read in Mr. Garner’s book, which in turn perhaps paraphrased Dr. Flower’s. But this system is so simple and yet profound, that I just had to share it with you.

Whether you are an active New Jersey Divorce Lawyer, a client thinking about filing a Motion pro se, or simply someone interested in improving their writing abilities, the Madman, the Architect, the Carpenter, and the Judge should provide a great system to help you achieve your goals.

The basic concept is this: four stages need to be completed to produce effective legal writing. Each stage requires a different personality, and you can’t allow the personalities to interfere with each other. These four personalities are defined as the “Madman”, the “Architect”, the “Carpenter”, and the “Judge.”

Writing Stage 1: The Madman

The Madman is the creative spirit inside all of us. The madman (or madwoman) is all about ideas. Some of his or her ideas are good, some are bad, and some are simply….mad as a Lewis Carroll character.

These ideas, however, are the lifeblood of the writing process. Without ideas, why are you writing in the first place? The key is to let the madman be as crazy as he or she wants to be. You shouldn’t try to reign in the ideas, just simply write out every idea the inner “Madman” has to offer.

Writing Stage 2: The Architect

Again–according to Garner referencing Dr. Flower’s–the Architect requires a different mindset, because he or she has a different set of skills. Accordingly, the job of the Architect is to take the Madman’s work and develop it into a cohesive written outline. The Architect will throw many of the Madman’s ideas out, and elaborate or revise others. When the Architect is finished, there should be a detailed outline for the Carpenter to follow, just like the plans for building a new house.

Writing Stage 3: The Carpenter

The Carpenter’s job is to follow the Architect’s outline and to actually write. Assuming the architect provided an effective outline, and the Madman had some good ideas, then the writing should be quite easy.  Apparently a big key here is to keep “The Judge” at bay until it is his turn to act. His judgmental approach may kill ideas or slow the outlining or writing process.

Writing Stage 4: The Judge

Finally it’s our inner-Judge’s turn to take center stage. This is when you edit and revise, and that includes everything from simple grammar mistakes to rewriting sections of your document.


The above framework provides actionable steps and the specific mindsets necessary to thoroughly and effectively take your writing to the next level. As Garner notes, if your problem is minor details and grammar issues—then you need to improve your “Judge.” Conversely, if creativity is an issue–then you need to more fully embrace the inner madness of the Madman.

Since I read this section of Garner’s book, I’ve implemented this strategy into brief or other extensive legal writing.  Thus far, I have been satisfied with the results. The biggest improvement I have noticed is cutting down the time it takes to start and complete a polished final product.

Best of luck to you if you attempt to implement this method into your own writing, legal or otherwise.

Your New Jersey Divorce Lawyer:

If you’re considering a New Jersey divorce or Family Law action contact me to discuss your options.  You can schedule an initial consultation by calling my office at 908-237-3096 or by scheduling your own divorce consultation online by clicking here.

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