SAO Legal Writing

Elevating legal writing from good to great

Shelley Appleby-Ostroff, legal writing coach

SAO Legal Writing delivers customized writing training and coaching to legal professionals: lawyers; summer and articling students; tribunal analysts, economists, and decision-makers.

Founder Shelley Appleby-Ostroff is a legal writing and talent development coach, and experienced lawyer. Her group training and private coaching propel legal professionals’ writing to the next level by focusing on six core principles:

  • Adopt a reader-centred approach
  • Provide context before details
  • Make structure explicit
  • Group related information together
  • Construct clear, direct, and simple sentences
  • Develop an effective writing process

Training Options

Private Writing Coaching

Private coaching is Shelley’s specialty – and the most effective way to improve your writing. During each coaching session, you’ll receive targeted advice and detailed feedback on a current writing project, along with suggestions for continued writing improvement.

Group Writing Training

Shelley custom designs all group training programs. Through a combination of brief presentations, group discussions, and targeted writing exercises, participants will develop the specific strategies and skills they need to improve and refine their writing, whatever the context or document.

Talent Development Coaching

As a legal talent development coach, Shelley helps lawyers develop the specific skills they need to excel in today’s competitive legal profession. Examples of recurring coaching topics include: productivity, perfectionism, and procrastination.


I thought the program was amazing.  Shelley was very clear, and it is enjoyable being involved in a seminar when the teacher/speaker is not only knowledgeable but clearly has a passion for the work they are doing. Overall, it is a great program and very well presented. Junior Lawyer
This program is a very helpful tool.  Whether you are new to the world of legal writing or have been at it a long time, there is always room for improvement, and this program definitely has very useful tools. Junior Lawyer
The program forces you to think critically about your writing and highlights the areas you need to be cognizant of. Senior Lawyer
The combination of a group setting and one-on-one coaching was helpful and kept things interesting.

Junior Lawyer
The workshop was outstanding. I really liked the examples, interaction and discussion.

Summer Student
The program reminded me that there is always a way to be better at what I do.

Junior Lawyer

Frequently Asked Questions

Who should participate in writing training?

Legal professionals at all levels are encouraged to attend a group workshop or try a private coaching session. Writing well is an essential skill for legal professionals – a skill we can always improve, regardless of our expertise or experience.

How many participants can attend a workshop?

To encourage participation, most workshops are limited to 20 participants.

How long are the workshops?

Shelley will customize your workshop to fit your schedule. Typically, though, lunch-and-learn workshops are 60 to 90 minutes long; regular in-person workshops range from 2.5 to 4 hours; and online workshops are rarely longer than 2 hours.

Which coaching option should I choose?

Most coaching clients start with 6 sessions then add another 3 or 6. If you’d rather ease into coaching before making a commitment, Shelley offers a 90-minute trial session.

What are your fees?

Because training content and format are tailored to each client, pricing varies. Contact Shelley for a free consultation to discuss your training needs and associated fees.

What’s point first writing - and why should I do it?

Shelley offers her answers to these questions in an article for the Ontario Bar Association:
Good Legal Writing: What’s the Point?