August 28, 2018 Articles

Reclaiming Our Humanity: Make Your Legal Writing More Readable

Most attorneys write like they think an attorney is supposed to sound.

By Jake Brainard – August 28, 2018

We have all seen it. Opposing counsel serves a brief. You struggle to trudge through the legalese and long citations. You find unnecessary Latin phrases, words like heretofore, and string citations with several explanatory phrases scattered throughout them. On top of all of it, the brief is 70 pages when 30 would have sufficed. You spend time cutting through the awkward and antiquated prose to make notes for a response. Then you draft your response—only to fall into the same trap.

Ask just about any judge, and she will tell you that making your briefs readable is vital to making the biggest impact. So why do we, as attorneys, get stuck running on the same legal writing wheel? Because most attorneys write like they think an attorney is supposed to sound. It is easy to forget that, after all of the point-counterpoint and the seemingly well-placed a fortiori, the point of writing the brief is so that it is read and is persuasive. Somewhere in law school and the first years of practice, we lose that piece of our human understanding that helps us speak as regular people do. I say it is time lawyers reclaimed that understanding.

“How do we go back to writing like human beings?” you might ask. Simple changes make significant differences.

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