Legal Writing Tips For Lawyers

Practicing law means writing. A Lot of writing. Motions, Demand letters, Emails to clients, Memos, etc. The practice of law is in many ways practice in writing, which clearly means, to be a better lawyer, you need to be a better writer first.

For lawyers, failure to express their ideas clearly may lead to unhealthy consequences for their clients. In the worst cases, their inefficiency to put a motion, write an official letter, or set a legal request can negatively impact the success of the entire case. Clear communication can help make or break your client’s case. Hence, writing effectively and concisely is very important for lawyers.

If you are currently studying to be a lawyer or if you are a lawyer, don’t worry though, with some practice and a few tips, pretty much anyone can start writing better. 

To help you out, here are our top legal writing tips for lawyers.

1.     Get to the Point

Long letters from lawyers are not very well perceived. You need to write only as much as you have to say, and nothing more. Learn to express your ideas using less text. First, it might work to start with a broad outline of the background, then move ahead to the context, and then begin to outline your views as you proceed ahead. In legal writing, always make sure to keep it as easy as possible for your recipient to grasp the point. It is important to stick to the topic of the message to convey what you mean and be concise but precise. Once you have mastered this, you’ll be ready to start crafting your text, with the main point going first and the background/context following afterward. 

2.     Read it out loud.

The best writing tip is to always read out loud every piece that you write. Doing this will help you see sentences that are awkwardly phrased, this is well-needed to spot some grammatical mistakes. Reading out loud can also help you find some better cliches. Doing this you will be able to spot what spoils the rhythm of the letter so that you can edit it accordingly.

3.     Use correct grammar and structure.

Using the right grammar is one of the most important legal writing tips. The ability to build correct language construction is crucial for lawyers. Most legal documents have their own structure and lawyers are advised to follow it strictly to make sure the correct message is received.

4.     Choose the right words.

The wording is also very important for lawyers. Most questions on how to write a legal document come down to the issue of synonyms in the English language. The problem is that many words that are similar in pronunciation and writing may have different meanings. Also, words that appear to be synonymic may need to be used in very different contexts. Thus, before you put something in writing, make sure you choose the best word for your drafts.

5.     Write a summary and conclusion.

Clients find it extremely helpful when they are able to see the purpose of the letter even before reading it. Hence, adding short summaries with key points at the start can be very helpful. Your draft should have a proper conclusion that will make all your reflections clear and logical, add bullets to categorize your writing in a better way.

6.     Tell a story

Lawyers often forget that judges are also human beings just like them, and not simply legal computers that process only facts and data. Judges do appreciate a good story. The statement of facts section of a legal brief is as crucial as the legal argument and should never be overlooked. This section can be used to draft a relatable narrative that is easily understandable to others.

7.     Use formatting techniques

You might have avoided using bullet points, numbered lists, or subheadings. Maybe they seemed too simple for your writing. Well, this is the time to make friends with formatting. You want your legal writing to be easy to read, easy to understand, and easy to put into action, even if it deals with a complex issue. One way of doing this is to break up the text: 

  •  Think about how the reader would best be able to understand the information, and draft accordingly. 
  •   Whenever you find good examples of other people doing this, make a note of it, and try it out for yourself.

Last but not least…

8.     Proofread It One More Time

The best thing you can do with your writing is to give yourself a break and proofread it. For example, you can write it in the evening so that you could send it after reading it one more time in the morning, if not, make sure you proofread and edit the draft and make it look neat and professional. Your clients will always appreciate this.

Legal writing is a challenge because it contrasts with all general writing rules. You have to stay clear and concise, use the right words, and write little but informative. Sounds counterintuitive, but it’s true the more you understand a topic deeply, the less you’ll need to play around with long sentences and complicated descriptions.

To write with clarity, grace, and style, legal writing does require a lot of effort. But once you master it, you’ll be recognized and rewarded for it. You do not have to captivate your audience, your writing should just rightly serve its purpose. And you should be able to showcase your professionalism and skills through your ability to communicate in writing.

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