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8 Legal Drafting Skills Every Lawyer Needs to Learn

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contract management

Legal drafting takes concentration and organization for both the writer and the reader. It requires accuracy, spelling, grammar skills, punctuation use (or knowing when not to use punctuation), knowledge of citation rules (i.e., APA vs. MLA), discretion with sentence structure and tone appropriate for the subject matter at hand, clarity of thought, and knowledge of the subject matter.

In Legal drafting, it is important to consider the intended audience by asking questions such as:

How much does this reader already know about your topic? How much time do they have to read and understand what I am saying? What kinds of words should I use when talking to them? What would make this message easier for them to understand?

Legal drafting skills are needed in almost all areas of law. A lawyer must master legal drafting to become successful in their career. Let us introduce you to something more basic but equally essential: the legal drafting skills every lawyer needs to know.

Understanding Language

You will have to draft your documents using legalese and unfamiliar words and phrases, so you must understand what this means to effectively communicate ideas – legal or otherwise. Furthermore, if you are going to be dealing with several different countries while drafting contracts (which we hope you are), understanding language will help you interpret these across jurisdictions as well. For example, “goods” means something very different depending on where exactly this term is used.

Critical Reading

You should know what is and isn’t legal, but you also need to be able to find where the problems are – if there are any. You will often be given a piece of text that has been drafted by someone else; your job is to make it legally watertight, so while you don’t want to waste time trying to understand what the other person means, at the same time you do not want them to have made many mistakes either. For example, in one document we read recently they wrote something along the lines of “the Company shall appoint an auditor to audit and report on…”.

The problem here? It should have said “shall cause an auditor…” because appointing implies, they can choose who the auditor is, but they can’t.

Editing & Revising

You must be able to quickly understand the meaning of a sentence or clause and then know how to improve it if necessary – because you often have very little time to do this. If you want your clients to enjoy dealing with your document, then you should learn to edit out any unnecessary language that might make them waste more time than necessary.

In addition, there are five reasons why editing will help you improve any text: It shows clarity; it shows impartiality (you may choose not only when to include legal jargon); it shows professionalism; it saves time for both others and you; and finally, people always appreciate receiving well-revised documents.

Syntax & Grammar

You have to know what a sentence should look like because that is how you will begin most of your documents. You may often find yourself unsure about whether something makes sense or not, so it is vital to be able to spot errors. For example, there was once a senior lawyer who submitted an application for a client’s trademark registration which read: “The Applicants name is __________________”. Needless to say, this never made it past the examination stage! We all make mistakes; the trick is learning from them. And as these are drafts, they can always be changed anyway.

Proving Statements

Many people understand what they mean when they write something but then fail to explain why their idea works legally. For example, you may think that “if you touch a mousetrap, it will go off” is perfectly legal advice… until the client says they want to sue your client if anyone goes near their trademarked trap. It just doesn’t work that way. So, unless you know why things stand up in law, no one else will – and you won’t either!

Persuasive Arguments

Another important drafting skill is knowing how to write persuasive arguments. One of the things that I’ve noticed over time is that people don’t like being told what to do in general. And while you may think that your client loves and trusts your every word, they might not be as accepting toward a portion of your draft if it doesn’t sound like good advice. Or, for instance, if you tell them something that wasn’t their idea in the first place or sounds too demanding.

One way to get around this is by making sure that everything you say–no matter how mundane–is convincing and makes sense from their point of view (i.e., builds up to your conclusion instead of just being a list of reasons why they should do it).

Usage of Appropriate Tone

Another legal drafting skill is knowing how to write in an appropriate tone. Sometimes, you need to get your message across quickly. Other times, you’re speaking with someone who’s already stressed out and you don’t want them raising their blood pressure any higher. Knowing what to say often comes naturally, but it also means learning about the people that you work with so that you can know when to be polite or firm.

For example, if I ask my client a question and I’m worried that he might not understand my point, then I will rephrase it slowly and make sure I explain myself clearly before continuing (because time is money). Also, there may be times when you are writing a demand letter that you want your client to read as being demanding. In other words, when I say “please,” I mean “I am being polite by saying this, but in reality, this is what I would like.”

Writing Good Conclusions

Finally, the last legal drafting skill that I think is important to cultivate is knowing how to write a good conclusion. In legal writing, you need to tie everything together so that your client knows exactly what you’ve told them. You don’t want them reading through your drafts and later asking what they should be doing or why it matters. At that point, you’re just wasting everyone’s time (including your own).

Every lawyer must learn the skill of legal drafting to become a success in their career. Drafting is more than just writing; it is about shaping and creating words into messages that accurately reflect your goal, purpose, and strategy. When you are writing a contract or legal memorandum, every word should have meant. The message does not only convey what you want it to say but how you want it to be interpreted.

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