Technical Writing



In the early 1990s, I worked as a technical writer for three years at a major NYC law firm. (For the first year or so, I was employed by Mayer, Brown & Platt to work on a huge ongoing corporate litigation. Then a group of attorneys from MBP separated to form their own firm, Kasowitz, Hoff, Benson & Torres, dealing only with this same corporate litigation, and I was brought along.) The technical writing in this case focused on the field of plastics, so the documents were scientific and industrial, as well as some written in “legalese.” They dealt with the chemical makeup of various plastics, lab tests on plastic products, manufacturing processes, and so on.

Before working at this law firm, I had never read much about plastics. Yet I believe that a well-rounded education, good writing skills, extensive life experience, and years of avid reading will enable a person to understand almost any subject--except, perhaps, some of the more complex theories in a Stephen Hawkings book.

As a senior paralegal, I worked one-on-one with an attorney to create a 700-page timeline of the most important documents in the case. For the last year of the project, I was the sole author, editor, and proofreader of both the book version and the database version of the timeline. The type of technical writing I did consisted of reading each document and “digesting” it; that is, condensing it and writing a synopsis of the most important points for attorneys to use in court.

My other main duty was training temps to be technical writers. The quality of the temps we hired was uneven, with some people being incapable of mastering either the comprehension aspect or the writing part of of the task. My boss often called the temp agency with a request to “Send me ten AROCs.” (I think she coined the term. It’s pronounced with a hard “A”: “A-Rock,” meaning someone who is Anal Retentive Obsessive Compulsive. She considered it the ultimate compliment.) Yet the majority of temps who arrived were not up to the AROC standard, so a coworker and I devised the AROC Test for technical writers. On the first day that temps were hired, their “job” consisted of taking this test. If they passed, they were hired for a long-term, well-paying gig with the law firm. If not, they were sent back to the agency. With this test, we found some stellar people who did top-notch work: they had superior native intelligence, excellent writing skills, and an ability to “wing it” when confronted with reports that contained strange chemical formulas and industrial lingo.

Unfortunately, my writing samples from this period were lost in a flood, and they were all “privileged” material anyway, because I had to sign a nondisclosure agreement when I was hired. As I take on clients in this area, I may post examples of my technical writing.


Technical writing: $65/hour
Technical editing: $50/hour