How to Write Effective Legal Documents

Writing effective legal documents is an important part of law practice. Whether it's a contract, court documentation or client intake document, there are many factors that can influence its effectiveness.

BlogEducationHow to Write Effective Legal Documents

Writing effective legal documents is an important part of law practice. Whether it's a contract, court documentation or client intake document, there are many factors that can influence its effectiveness.

Using the correct structure, language choices and efficient work habits can help improve your legal writing skills. Read on to learn more about how to write effective legal documents.

1. Know Your Audience

Effective legal documents must be written for specific audiences, such as clients, opposing counsel, and judges. Each audience will have different levels of knowledge and experience, so it’s important to create documents that are clear, concise and easy to understand.

Before you begin writing, research your audience and identify their needs and interests. This will help you plan your document and determine what information to include in it.

You should also consider the background of your readers, including their educational level and work experience. This will affect the tone of your writing and the level of detail you provide.

If you’re not sure if your writing is clear or if it makes sense, ask someone else to read through it and provide feedback. This will help you catch any errors and ensure that you’re using correct grammar and spelling.

Another way to get input on your writing is to send it to a friend or co-worker for review. Whether or not this person has any legal experience, they will be able to point out grammatical mistakes and ensure that your writing is easy to read.

As with all other writing, it’s essential to proofread your work. This can be difficult when you’re in the middle of the writing process, but it’s worth the effort to ensure that your work is clear and error-free.

The more thorough your editing and proofreading is, the more likely your documents are to be read thoroughly. To make the task easier, try using text-to-speech apps like Linguatec or Natural Reader to read your documents aloud.

You can also use tools like Word’s spell checker and readability statistics to find any mistakes in your documents. These tools are available in most office software programs.

It’s important to remember that your readers are looking for specific information in your legal documents, and you must deliver it. This means making it clear what you want them to do and how you want them to respond. You can accomplish this by using a strong introduction, making your point clear and simple, and keeping it short.

2. Make It Easy to Read

Legal documents are a necessary part of everyday life, whether we’re buying a car or signing up for a service. However, they can be difficult to read and understand for the average person. This is a problem that can be fixed by making it easier for non-lawyers to understand them.

According to a recent study from MIT cognitive scientists, the key to effective legal writing is to make it easy for people to read and understand. Specifically, this means eliminating any unnecessary jargon and replacing it with more common language.

Another way to make your document more readable is by formatting it properly. This is particularly important for legal documents that need to be submitted to courts, which will have specific rules about format. These include the typeface and margins that should be used. Using standard typefaces, such as Times New Roman or Courier, and spacing the text properly are both important.

Additionally, it is a good idea to use short sentences that are simple and straightforward. Long, run-on sentences are difficult to read and interpret.

The most effective legal documents are clear, concise and logical. They use direct language, such as “shall,” “must” or “will.” These words clearly define what is meant by the sentence. They also help to avoid ambiguity and create consistency throughout the document.

It is also important to follow the correct citation formats. This will ensure that your readers have access to the information they need and can find it easily if needed. For example, it is a good idea to mark legal citations so that they are easily found when looking up the relevant laws or cases.

In addition to following the above rules, it is also important to keep your writing clean and free of errors. This will allow your clients to understand the information contained within the document and move forward with their case.

Legal documents are usually complex and filled with industry jargon, so it’s important to make them clear and easy to read. This will make them more effective and efficient for both your firm and your clients. It will also prevent back-and-forth explanations that can lengthen your processes and cost you time.

3. Keep It Simple

The best legal documents are based on a simple, clear structure. This means drafting your research in an outline and writing each section with headings to keep the reader focused on the main point and moving through the document in a logical way.

Keeping it simple involves focusing on the best arguments and filtering out additional supporting information after you have selected your strongest points. This is a strategy that works well in many areas of business, including marketing communication, but it can be especially useful in the world of legal document writing.

If you are writing a legal document for a court, use jargon only when it is necessary. Otherwise, stick to plain language and avoid using words like "whereof," "hereunto" or other archaic phrasing that can be confusing to a non-lawyer audience.

You can also make your legal document easy to understand by clearly outlining the meaning of any technical jargon you use. This will save you time and money by reducing back-and-forth explanations that could be spent on new cases that generate more revenue.

Finally, it is important to keep your legal document as short as possible. This can be accomplished by limiting the number of bullet points you include and only stating the key facts that support your point in each paragraph.

In addition, it can be helpful to break up long sections with brief summaries or lists that are logically ordered. These can help readers scan the entire document and quickly find what they're looking for without getting lost.

It is also important to write a strong opening statement, which sets the stage for the rest of your document. This is where you should explain what you intend to do, the process you will take your readers through and the conclusion you want them to reach.

Whether you are writing a legal document or a promotional piece for a business, using simple language is the best way to communicate with your audience. This is particularly true when working with a client who is unfamiliar with the law and its concepts.

4. Make Your Point

One of the most important aspects of writing effective legal documents is to make your point. In general, this means establishing the thesis of your document up front and then supporting that point with facts or law in a manner that will convince the reader to agree with your thesis.

It also means avoiding unnecessary words and extraneous phrases that make your document hard to read or understand. Whether you're drafting a contract, court documentation or client intake document, reducing your use of legalese will help improve the overall quality of your work.

The same goes for using transitional phrases throughout your documents to connect your main points. Ensure that all your arguments are organized logically, with supporting reasons and examples highlighted within the body of your document.

This helps your audience to follow the logic of your arguments and ensure that they can identify exactly what you're trying to get across. Avoid ambiguity and confusion whenever possible, as this can lead to an unclear argument and an unsatisfying outcome.

In legal writing, it is especially important to use a clear and concise style. While legal jargon and other phrases may be necessary to express legal concepts, overusing them will reduce the credibility of your documents and leave your readers with a poor impression of you and your firm.

For this reason, it's best to edit and proofread your legal writing in advance of final submission. Having someone without legal experience or knowledge read through your work can help you determine if your language is spelled correctly and makes sense. If you don't have anyone with these skills on staff, there are many online tools that can help you efficiently edit your work.


Saturday, December 24, 2022