The biggest pet peeve of more than half of the lawyers is to write any litigation document like a noob! Writing is an important skill in any profession but in the legal industry it is not only a part of their day-to-day operating activities but also their jobs totally depend on it. From drafting court documents to in-office communications, writing is everywhere.
Legal drafting is not just about writing a document and filling it with all information. Lawyers are required to keep a check on their tone, style, and voice in litigation documents that it is appropriate to present in court or to an audience. Attorneys need to file a document in court nearly every day and to be able to do that they need to be skilled legal writers.
The change from scholastic writing to legal drafting is difficult for young attorneys. While law schools train and prepare them for this sometimes students may feel unprepared. Through this blog, we’ll help you to upgrade your legal drafting skills.
what is legal writing?
You see documents related to litigation all the time. The type of writing that is in those documents is legal writing. Drafting a legal document is not only about solid fundamentals. A little care and insider tricks work just fine along with the facts.
Legal drafting usually depends on your style and the tone of the document. The sole purpose of legal writing is to persuade the person you’re writing it for, and this won’t be possible if you’re not good at it.
In order to be a skillful legal writer, you not only need to understand the demands of the document, client, and judge, but you also need tricks that no school or textbooks teach you. These tricks and tips come from experience. Although no one talks much about how important legal writing is for an attorney’s job, one thing’s for sure: legal writing comes along in every legal profession.
Lawyers who use plain language know it doesn’t just make good sense, it makes good cents.Christopher Balmford, Words and Beyond, Australia
Whether you’re a confident writer or not, as long as you’re serving the purpose, no one’s going to question you. Being an attorney, you must have a few skills that don’t come along with your course, legal writing is one of them. With a lot of research and surveys, we are here to serve you some special tricks that will not only help you start but also help you settle in and catch a form very easily.
take your audience into account
Before you start, you must know who you’re writing for and what are their requirements. For example, another lawyer will have different topics they’d like to read and some law students would have something else in mind. So, keep your target audience in mind, understand what they’re expecting and what is their level of understanding. This will help you determine the tone, style, and information you’re including in your writing.
Use the madman, architect, carpenter, and judge process
In the words of Bryan A. Garner, “Use a four-step process for legal drafting.” The four steps he is talking about in his book ‘Legal Writing in Plain English,’ are The Madman: think of as many things you want to say as quickly as you can.
- The madman: Think of as many things you want to say as quickly as you can.
- The architect: Put those thoughts in a sensible order and abridge them.
- The carpenter: With the abridgment of your thoughts, quickly inscribe a draft.
- The judge: After writing a draft and setting it aside, review and edit it as required.
keep it succinct
Every word you’re jotting down should look like a part of the document. In simple words, remove unnecessary adjectives, and words that aren’t persuasive, and shorten compound sentences. You don’t want your document to be too long to read. Make it simple and keep it short. The shorter your piece is, the more accurate it should be, and the more attention it will grab. People are always in a rush. they never have time to read long writings. So, better if it is precise and to the point.
read different writer’s work
Legal drafting is not all about writing a document according to your target audience’s requirements. You should also be aware of other lawyers’ legal writing. This will help you understand more about your topic, you’ll know your weaknesses and what you’re lacking, and you’ll start getting familiar with the topic before you write.
Pay attention to the details others writing in and the details they are missing out on. Also read books, blogs, and articles for your own research as well. In order to make your article, blog, or document.
call a spade, a spade!
We’ve mentioned earlier, that being concise instead of stretching out and adding complex sentences, reduces redundancies. So lawyers, stop beating around the bush and just say what you want to. You know your readers already and you’ve familiarized yourself enough with your topic as well, now cut to the chase and get to legal drafting. Readers have thin patience, state all your facts as it is. This means no extra words, no adverbs or adjectives, no stretching of sentences, only and only facts that are loud and clear!
The lawyer’s greatest weapon is clarity, and its whetstone is succinctness.Judge Prettyman
use a potent vocabulary
Legal drafting without a potent vocabulary is like frozen yogurt but it is not actually frozen. This means that if legal writing is not persuasive, it’s never going to be good enough! After all, what good is an article, blog, or document that cannot convince the reader? Your writing should focus on the main issue. Don’t bury your readers into words, you’ve to keep it short but attractive. Write in a manner that gets the job done. Your work should be so convincing that it not only keeps the reader engaged but also makes them want more. Use power words to add punch to your writing.
Jargon is unessential complex language usually used to impress the audience. These are special words used by a particular people of a particular group that outsiders don’t understand well. Leave such jargon or legalese out of your legal drafting procedure. Although you cannot just leave them out, so use them only when it is needed and appropriate.
Too much legalese will not only complicate your piece but also make it difficult to read and understand for a client who is not well-versed.
Grammatical tips for legal drafting
Imagine you’re reading an article full of grammatical mistakes. It is not only frustrating but also drives away the audience. Now imagine that your article, which you think is grammatically correct isn’t actually correct when read from a legal point of view. Here are some tips you might want to consider:
- Avoid passive voice, use active voice.
- Do not use gender-biased words, “they” is universal.
- Don’t use slang.
- Eschew double negatives.
- Punctuate properly.
- Do not repeat your issues.
edit, edit, and then edit again!
Behind every great writer is a legal writer who puts all his hard work in. Legal drafting may seem effortless, but it is not true. Effort along with concentration and patience makes an amazing writer. Reading your writing out loud helps in identifying errors and eliminating them. Once you’ve edited your piece, let it sit. Read again with a fresh mind, you’ll find new ways to make it better.
Although it is always nice to have somebody proofread and edit your writing, you have to do the basics on your own first. We suggest you read it several times before finalizing, and on every step, you’ll find new errors. Start by eliminating errors, move forward by omitting unnecessary words, and gradually remove repetitive words and sentences.
kick start your writing
Leading from the top is by far the most effective principle for skilled and powerful writing. You start by telling readers the most important information and they’ll read your entire article looking for that information.
It is like starting with a conclusion that is precise yet upbeat.
tools to get you started
By now, you probably have some tricks up your sleeve that will help you in your legal profession. Not too much of a surprise that you always need sidekicks and on the road to becoming a skilled legal writer, you’ll definitely need a helping hand. Here are some tools that will help you in legal drafting:
- Grammarly: To help you with grammatical errors
- BriefCatch: Provides writing suggestions in real-time.
- Copyscape: Plagiarism Checker
- Google Docs: Helps you type, share, and edit documents in real time.
- Hemingway Editor: Assists to enhance your writing skills.
- One Look Reverse Dictionary: Let you describe the idea and generate phrases.
- Loio: Attorneys can automate routine tasks.
- Perfeclt: Aids in proofreading.
While legal drafting is always considered important, one must find themselves in a situation where they realize they don’t know how to start, or even if they start they won’t know what things to keep in mind and how to increase their reach and make their work look skillful. Even the greatest lawyers sometimes find themselves in confusing situations.
‘There is always room for improvement’. This is not just a quote but a fact that we’ve experienced ourselves. One cannot have enough knowledge. Similarly, even if you’re a skilled writer, you’ll always require tips to do better. Great legal writers are not made overnight. It is an ongoing process, which means as you move forward you learn and you grow until you finally have the skills. Even “Antonin Scalia” was once a beginner.