Principles of Modern Legal Writing

Principles of Modern Legal Writing

Whether you`re new to legal writing or an old professional, it`s important to keep some essential basics in mind. Without structure, clarity, grammar and coherence, you present a position that is less easy to defend and support. When you present a case to a judge, they expect them to immediately understand your position. Legal writing is not the time to bring your personal voice and style to a document. Legal rhetoric includes specific style guidelines and requirements for success. Without following these principles, you could have problems with credibility and success. There are generally two types of voice in which one can write: the active voice and the passive voice. The passive voice often requires the reader to fill in the gaps, make assumptions, and do extra work to understand what you`re trying to say. In legal writing, this poses a problem of accuracy and honesty in your argument. By using active voice, you can stay clear, concise and consistent, which is the next principle on the list.

Active voice means that you say who performs the action and what that action is. Don`t leave the interpretation to the reader, as this could cause your case or reasoning to go in a direction you didn`t anticipate. Another aspect of using active voice is to bring changing words as close as possible to the words you are changing. If you`re still learning how to write legal texts and you`re worried about whether you make sense, there`s a way to test it. Put your written work aside and let someone who has nothing to do with the law read it. Ask follow-up questions and clarify exactly what was unclear. This way, you can improve your legal drafting. When I write, I always try to keep Reavley`s principles in mind. Although Justice Reavley was not very interested in grammar, he taught me more about legal writing than anyone else. Proofreading legal documents significantly improves their quality. First, you will be able to find grammar and spelling mistakes. Secondly, it helps you avoid verbosity and confusing constructions.

If you go back to the beginning of a sentence or another paragraph because you have lost the narrative thread, it is a red flag to change that part of the text. The last thing you want is to have typos, grammatical errors, omissions, and punctuation errors in your legally filed documents. Not only could this hurt a case you`re working on, but it could also damage your reputation as a legal representative if rumors circulate that you have repeated errors in your documents. Legal writing can have life-and-death implications, so it seems obvious that it is mandatory to take the extra time to ensure accuracy. This article was originally published in the August/September 2022 issue of ABA Journal under the title “Judge`s Rules: The four Reavley principles.” The much-discussed Oxford comma is important in legal writing. Too often, legal documents contain clarity errors due to a lack of punctuation that would make a statement clear. Although many authors in other disciplines think that the Oxford comma or serial comma is superfluous punctuation, the Oxford comma has an absolute place in legal writing. Don`t run the risk of your sentence being unclear by omitting this punctuation mark. If you have read this far and come to the conclusion that this column is for appeal judges but not for others, please be patient with me. Every lawyer can benefit from the Reavley principles. When writing a legal document, it is important for the success of your reasoning or position to remain accurate and honest. Just write down the facts.

Don`t get into the habit of adding exaggerations to make a point, and don`t include your personal feelings about a situation where there are hard facts and evidence to present. Writing is at the heart of what lawyers do. Books about writing tend to start with a simple sentence: writing is about communication. But communication can take different forms. This chapter discusses the specifics of legal communication and the basic principles that underpin effective legal drafting. Most legal skills papers now recognize that legal writing is a skill that has a different purpose than legal writing. Lawyers have a reputation for communicating very poorly with their clients, just as doctors have a reputation for writing indecipherable handwriting. The traditional written communication process was based on letters or reports sent by mail or at least fax, but then read on paper. Latin and Greek are clearly no longer common features of the modern education system. In addition, lawyers are more likely to come from a variety of educational backgrounds. Most of the rules prescribed by language experts do not make sense at any level.

In legal writing, citations must be balanced. While you don`t want to omit certain information from a case, you also don`t want to overload the document with so many citations that there`s no new substance to support the specific case. Think carefully about what information needs to be repeated verbatim with the legal citation, versus what information can be summarized or paraphrased with a quote in the text so that the reader can use it when they want to know more. There are services available online that can help you find and correct errors in documents of all kinds. In addition to these services, you can include some techniques that you can use yourself to proofread your documents, read the text backwards word for word, read aloud yourself or with a partner, and say punctuation marks aloud to make sure they work for you. When you read text aloud, mistakes are noticed. Find all those little mistakes, correct them and proofread the document again. You should read your legal documents at least three times before submitting them or sending them to clients. Your text always has a purpose. Your knowledge of your target audience and purpose will influence the style, tone, and form of your writing.

Always clearly state the main point that makes your message meaningful and place it prominently. Use the right text structure to help your audience understand your message. Back up your sentences with examples and references as proof. This will help you illustrate your point. Your text should be logically consistent, so it`s important to use link words. Like any other field, the legal industry has an active vocabulary. Unfortunately, most complex legal words and phrases can make a text too pretentious, abstruse and difficult to understand. Try to avoid, simplify or replace them with synonyms as much as possible. Jargonisms, Latin idioms or outdated expressions will not play into your hands` hands. Many lawyers use them to make themselves smarter, but they forget their main goal: to make sure all parties understand the case. Legal writing can be intimidating when you think about all the steps you need to take to ensure the success of your argument. Start with a plan, use short sentences, and follow the other principles of legal writing to create success in your legal documents.

These principles will eliminate intimidation from legal writing. Consider your audience and present your hard facts in a logical order, and you`ll see success in your legal writing. He used an analogy to America`s favorite pastime: “No detours, no distractions. Think of a baseball field: stay on the basic path to the first, second and third, then the base. You need to sketch or lay out your basics. Most lawyers seem to use the parts of the pleadings required by the rules for their presentation alone: presentation of the case, facts, problem and reasoning.