A new book has come out on Rosalie Wahl and her place in Minnesota history. And an event will be held next week hosted by the Minnesota Supreme Court Historical Society that will celebrate her life. So it’s a good time to think about her. One of the things everyone knew about Rosalie was how much she loved music. As a Quaker, she participated in many Quaker music sessions. And she loved good folk music and other singing.
At Rosalie’s retirement party, back in 1994, Justice M. Jeanne Coyne (the second woman on the Minnesota Supreme Court) talked about her friend’s love of music, and how it connected to her love of writing.
Another person who has spoken about legal writing and music is legal writing expert Ross Guberman. The author of Point Made: How to Write Like the Nation’s Top Advocates, he visited our state earlier this year to speak at the last Appellate Practice Institute. Ross sees a connection between writing and music. Both build on rhythm, sounds and cadence. An appreciation for music can make you sensitive to the sound of a sentence and can help you craft sentences that appeal to both the eye and the ear. A lot of legal writing conveys meaning accurately, but in a heavy and cumbersome way. Legal writing that sings, by contrast, has a light lyrical feel and is attuned to rhythm and not just meaning.
Ross says that you can be a great writer without a music background, and can be a good musician without being a good writer. But an awareness of how music and writing connect can help make your prose soar.
Register here to attend the Rosalie Wahl celebration next week.