How to write legal documents that work: tips from top judges

How to write legal documents that work: tips from top judges

Plain English: so easy in theory; not so easy in practice.

Even the tools which lawyers use to diagnose gobbledygook, are themselves, gobbledygook.

Well they are to me anyway. Take, for example, the SMOG readability algorithm:

Indeed. It’s obvious really.

Personally, I prefer to stick to the more easily understood and well-known ‘KISS’:

Keep it simple, stupid

Or, even better, Antoine de Saint Exupéry’s:

Perfection is reached not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away

So why does this all matter?

Quite simply, it can have a surprisingly high impact on how persuasive your work is.

Recently, American scholar, Adam Feldman at the University of Southern California, studied 9,452 merit briefs from 1946 through 2013 to see whether the quality of legal writing in such briefs affected the US Supreme Court’s opinion content.

The upshot? Even though it is tricky to pin down what exactly is meant by ‘quality writing’, it is clear from his research that the quality of presentation and writing does matter. As he notes:

Attorneys that wish to give the party they represent the best chance of a favorable outcome are behooved to take the quality of the brief into account.

Or, in plain English:

Lawyers who want the best chance to win their case must write well

Below are some of

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