Legalese: What is It Good For?
As a first-year law student, most likely you have no idea how much you will progress in mastering legal writing over the next few years, along with learning to avoid legalese. This may even be such a gradual process that you hardly realize it is happening. If you are a motivated student immersed in voluminous amounts of law school studying and legal reading though, it would be hard for that not to rub off, making you even more adept at manipulating the English language. Much of that is the entire goal of education to begin with, although for law school specifically, you must be learning information to pass the bar and go out into the world to practice successfully.
You don’t have to be a law student, however, to realize that many legal documents can be challenging to understand. Sometimes they seem like verbal quicksand, leaving us drowning in words we don’t understand, and often struggling to grasp meaning after several readings. Legalese is grounded in centuries of archaic tradition that some may feel is expected to appear erudite; however, this is not something you should work to master if you want your readers to come away with a valuable experience—or if you want them to pick up anything you have written next time!
Your goal in writing, rather than to bog down the reader in impressive legal jargon, should be to present clear, concise communication that welcomes the reader. Although many subjects may be less than exciting to read about—and even more so to write on—find a way to become inspired so your reader does too. If you are enthusiastic about your task, you should be able to craft your words into a document that readers will understand and perceive as valuable. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Do your research fully before you begin writing – this will allow you to formulate a well-rounded outline both in your mind and on paper, along with a comprehensive summary.
- Use a professional tone, but again, avoid the jargon, and make your words inviting.
- Once you have all your information written down, begin editing, simplifying, and rewriting until you are satisfied with the product.
- Avoid the passive voice and imbue your words and sentences with action. Rather than saying a document was written by you, explain that you wrote the document. Always turn sentences around to reflect what directly happened rather than making it more difficult for the reader to understand—or enjoy.
Are you interested in becoming a skilled legal writer and trial attorney? Our mission at CDTA College of Law is to educate, train, and develop extraordinary legal advocates. Your legal education will be comprised of bar-tested academic subjects, skills training, and values reinforcement. Upon completion of your 4-year course of study you will be fully qualified to take and pass the California Bar examination. Call us today at (760) 342-0900 or find out more online here.