Suffolk students get advanced writing tool

How cool! It's sort of like a robot editor. Or autocorrect — on steroids. 

Suffolk University Law School will be the first school in the country to provide its students with WordRake, legal editing software that offers suggestions to reduce wordiness, improve awkward phrasing and increase clarity.

What would Strunk and White think? (Um, law school students, you might need to Google them ...)

Nearly 360 students of this year's entering class is receiving a free license for the software as a result of the school’s collaboration with WordRake. WordRake’s suggested edits appear as an add-on in Microsoft Word through Word’s track-changes feature. 

The students have to decide, edit by edit, whether each change makes sense contextually, says Suffolk Law Professor Kathleen Elliott Vinson, director of legal writing, research, and written advocacy. “Our goal is that after seeing the same types of edits flagged repeatedly students can improve on the basics and focus more attention on substantive legal analysis.”

“WordRake is a great fit for the Law School,” says Dean Andrew Perlman. “We’re always looking to find innovative tools that help our students learn and grow and enable them to do their work more efficiently and effectively.”

Suffolk Law is regularly listed on shortlists of the nation’s most innovative law schools. It houses the nation’s first Legal Innovation and Technology (LIT) concentration, and was ranked No. 1 in the country for legal technology by National Jurist magazine. It also has a higly ranked writing program. And it's not laying up, apparently. 

Jim Figel, CEO and president of WordRake, says the software’s complex, patented algorithms help students produce clear and concise legal writing and avoid “legalese” before it becomes a bad habit. The software flags common phrases that lawyers use such as “pursuant to” and “in accordance with” and suggests omitting or simplifying them.

“I use WordRake on my own writing, and it’s easy to see how students would benefit from it, too,” adds Professor Dyane O’Leary, associate professor of legal writing and co-director of Suffolk’s LIT Concentration. “As someone who learned from WordRake founder Gary Kinder early in my law firm career, I’m excited to bring his editing expertise into the classroom and to make this collaboration a reality.”

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