There's no poignant quotation to start this review with because, as boring as it may be, this is essentially an advanced legal writing textbook. Why, you may be asking, would a non-law student bother to read a textbook? The easiest and most obvious answer is that my nerdiness knows no bounds, and I apparently have too much time on my hands.
The answer I've been telling myself as I've read this book on and off over the last two years is that legal writing is my bread and butter, and it would inure to my benefit to get better at it. In this regard, the book was worth the effort. Professor Messing has taken excerpts from the "best" legal writers today, and explained what makes their writing different. For those of us who are still learning the ropes, this is an invaluable resource in becoming a better writer.
Like any piece of advice, most of the things in this book sound obvious when reduced to a generalization. For example, every legal writer knows to "emphasize your best facts." However, it is one thing to know to "emphasize your best facts" and another to actually do it. Thus, the examples are very helpful.
Just one point of order, because this book is very similar in concept to another writing book I love: Point Made: How to Write Like the Nation's Top Advocates, which also takes examples from the "best" legal writers and explains why they are the best. Point Made is more of a book rather than a textbook. So for practicing attorneys with workloads to balance, it is a substantially more practical read. I would recommend Point Made before I would recommend Messing's book. However, if someone had already finished Point Made and wanted to read more, I would then suggest The Art of Advocacy, which definitely reads more like a textbook. I read Messing's book in short bursts, spread over two years (it is structured in a way that lends itself to being read this way). Point Made can be read in the course of a week without much trouble.