The Art of Flawless Legal Writing


Ranging from legal opinions, executive summaries, briefs, court processes, correspondences to minutes of meetings, lawyers write all manner of stuff. Indeed, one of the hallmarks of a lawyer is the depth of his writings. To survive, lawyers need a consistent and efficient plan for coordinating their thoughts and structuring the piece they write. They need to conceptualize writing as a staged process similar to building a house by a civil engineer.

While there are no laid down statutory provisions compelling a universal format for all legal write-ups, legal writing is a practical tool dependent on major principles and minor rules. Few of the notorious principles and rules are considered subsequently.

Understand your brief – The very first stage of an excellent legal writing skill is an understanding of the instruction. Only then would a lawyer effectively execute the next stage of the writing process.

Coordinate your thoughts – Most lawyers who write awfully skip this stage. The stuff lawyers write are functions of their mental process. In order to produce a piece dripping with excellence, the thought process must be flawless.

Identify a plan – Put down a structure of what you intend to write otherwise you produce “a good piece that lack form”.

Constantly consider the reader – Virtually every first year law student learns the mantra of IRAC because it teaches the normal syllogistic structure of legal analysis and argument. Since virtually all legal analyses and arguments can be structured with a syllogism, much legal writing follows this form.

Point first at every level – Effective legal writing is a “pointed text”. Always keep it short and sharp.

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Make the client’s story compelling – An artful statement of claim is a powerful argument because it moves readers emotionally as well as logically to see the case your client’s way.

If you don’t keep it awfully simple, it will become simply awful – On this, I recommend Plain English for Lawyers by Richard Wydick.

Keep sentences short – Concision is a mark of confidence, a hallmark of the best legal writing.

Prefer the active voice – Say “The court denied the motion” rather than “It was decided that the motion would not be granted”.

Use verbs, not nominalizations – Nominalizations create wordiness because they require articles and prepositions to prop them up. Say “conform” not “be in conformity with”.

Omit needless words – Draft early, peer-review your work and edit without mercy

He is a man who believes that there is no single method for effective editing exists.

At this juncture, it is important to note that tThere are two separate agreements.

To achieve the desired proficiency in legal writing, a lawyer need not only one or more of the many fine books on the subject, more importantly, he requires a personal commitment. With sustained effort over time, he would achieve consistent clarity and persuasive impact. And what is more, it would not only be a case of survival, it would be remarkable success.

“This publication is intended for enlightenment and should not to be used as advise for legal issues”

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