Whether you are a confident writer or not, legal writing is an essential skill for all lawyers in every practice area. Many types of writing include court documents such as motions, discovery papers, briefs, and memoranda.

A lawyer must ensure that their legal communication and writing style is appropriate for many audiences, such as judges and courts.

Filing documents in court (including briefs and memoranda) involves researching facts and situations, analyzing situations, presenting information, and making an argument. To become skilled writers, lawyers must be persuasive, authoritative, credible, and credible. These legal writing tips can help you improve your writing.

What is legal writing?

Legal writing refers to writing that deals with legal issues. This includes memorandums and motions, briefs, contracts, memorandums, and other legal writing.

Legal writing’s purpose is to persuade. The tone and style you use will depend on the audience you are writing for. You should be able to switch between legalese for judges and the plain language needed for clients as a legal writer.

Legal writing is essential for any legal professional, regardless of whether you consider yourself a writer. Legal writing applies to all legal professionals, from paralegals to lawyers and secretaries (see, for instance, our guide on communication & writing for paralegals).

Here are some legal writing tips to get you started

Tip 1: Know your purpose

What is the most important tip in legal writing? Understanding the purpose of your writing is key.

Ask yourself why you are writing this. What do you want to achieve? What outcome do you want to achieve?

A contract can be used to inform. Court documentation may be used to persuade. Client intake documentation may be used to evaluate. Your document’s structure, tone, and voice will vary depending on your purpose. Writing better will be easier if you understand the purpose of your legal writing.

Tip 2: Understand your audience

The structure and tone of your article will be influenced by who you are writing for. Judge, opposing attorney, or client may have different expectations and experiences that will affect how they view your work.

Keep the following things in mind when deciding who your audience is: their relationship with you, age, income, and economic status. Also, what they know about the topic you are writing about. This will help you decide the tone, style, as well as level of detail that you want to include in your writing.

Tip 3: Do your research

Good legal writing involves researching and incorporating relevant legal precedents in your documents. To better understand legal issues, read all material before you begin writing.

While every case and document will differ, some rules can help you succeed in legal research. Legal Research Tools Some valuable tools are FastCase and Legal Information Institute(LII). CourtListener.

You may find secondary sources, such as law dictionaries and academic journals, applicable depending on your writing. To establish persuasive authority, you will need both primary and secondary sources.

Some tips for legal writing

Tip 4 – Create an outline.

An outline is one of the best tips for improving your legal writing skills. An overview can help you keep your writing focused and organized.

An outline should describe the topic and place the most critical information first. Next, you will need to summarize the case and add supporting details. Make sure that the transitions between points are clear.

Having an outline can make legal writing much more manageable and less daunting. It will help you organize your thoughts and guide you through the writing process.

Tip 5 – Use words to fill the page

It can be hard to get started even with a clear outline. Even the most experienced legal writers can experience writer’s block. Don’t stress about perfection on your first attempt. Editing and proofing are what you need.

Focus on the critical information in your first draft. Ensure the information is accurate and complete and the content flows smoothly from one section to another. You can make as many drafts before the deadline as you like. Give your writing room to breathe. Take a break, then come back to it again with fresh eyes.

Remember that editing is an opportunity to improve your writing. You don’t need to perfect your formatting the first time.

Tip 6 – Be aware of the content structure

Writing from the top is the best way to structure a piece. The best way to structure a piece is to start by explaining what you are writing about and why. Next, give the arguments.

Choose the most compelling arguments you want to concentrate your writing around, and then filter out any supporting arguments. Use headings to break up sections and make it easier to transition between arguments. Then start new sections by using summary sentences. It is possible to use bullets and lists to make your writing more readable for the reader.

Tips to help improve your writing

Tip 7: Keep it simple

To help the reader understand your point, be clear and concise in the first few sentences of any legal document. Consider the reader is very busy and needs more patience. They may hate reading, so they will only read 200 words. They will decide whether or not to continue reading based on what you have to say in the 200 words.

Here are some additional writing tips you should keep in mind

  • Active voice The subject did something rather than someone did it to them. For example, Wendy consulted her lawyer while Wendy consulted her lawyer. Wendy is a passive voice.
  • Avoid double negatives:
  • The Oxford Comma lists items such as judges, magistrates, and clients.
  • Avoid using adjectives and adverbs: This is an exaggerated example.
  • Consistent Tenses: While the past tense is most common, it can sometimes make sense to use the present tense.
  • Do not use split infinitives. For example, push gently instead of pushing hard.
  • Avoid using gender-specific terminology. If in doubt, “they” is universal.
  • No hyperbole. This is inappropriate and unneeded.
  • Be precise. Use “recently” instead of “recently”.

Tip 8: Only use jargon when it is appropriate

Jargon, including legal terms, should only be used in certain contexts. Using too much “legalese”, for example, with clients unfamiliar with specific legal issues, can lead to confusion and muddy the conversation by asking unnecessary questions.

Using correct terminology and jargon in court documents is perfectly acceptable (and sometimes even required). Another attorney, judge, or magistrate will be reading your documents.

Use plain language when appropriate in your legal writing. This will show that you can understand the jargon and present it in an easy-to-understand way for the reader.

Tip 9: Proofread and edit

The legal writing process continues even after the piece has been completed. The most common mistake writers make is not budgeting for the editing phase. A thorough editing and review take time.

While it is always helpful to have someone else proofread and edit your work, you should still be able to do the basic things yourself. Learn grammar and spelling basics. Lawyers who make mistakes in spelling or grammar will be viewed as less trustworthy and need more attention to detail.

It can be hard to spot spelling and grammar errors right away. After you have read the document multiple times, your mistakes will be easier to spot. Other helpful tips for legal writing include reading through your writing aloud and reading it backward to sharpen your focus and help you spot any errors that might otherwise go unnoticed.

Here are some tips to improve your legal writing

Tip 10 – Use useful tools and apps

Good writers must always spell-check at least one sentence no matter what type of document or medium they are writing in. Legal writing has become much simpler thanks to advances in technology. For example, writing apps such as Grammarly or Ginger can help you spot grammar and spelling mistakes.

Text-to-speech apps like Natural Reader and Linguatec are great for reading your documents aloud if you don’t have a legal editor available. This will allow you to spot mistakes and awkward passages.

Some of these services can be used for free, but many will require you to pay for additional features. If your job involves a lot of writing, it’s worth investing in these paid versions to improve your legal writing skills.

Tip 11 – Read the work of other authors

Writers often advise people who want to improve their writing skills to read. This is true for all types of writing. You can improve your writing skills by reading the work of business and legal writers. These could include legal documents as well as books and blogs.

You can learn from others how they write and structure their documents and get an idea of the format of a legal document. Then you can incorporate your ideas and writing style. You can also ask your colleagues to share examples of their work or join communities or forums.

Review legal writing examples regularly.

You can improve your writing skills by reviewing the work of others. Here are some examples of legal writing to help you.

  • Closing Letter
  • Engagement letter
  • Examples of demand letters
  • Non-engagement letters

A legal template can help you maintain consistency and provide a framework for your writing.

Legal writing is an ongoing process.

Remember that no one can become a great lawyer overnight. As with all crafts, good law writing takes time and skill. You must learn the basics and then continue to improve.

Writing is a complex process that goes beyond simply putting words on paper. Writing, research, and editing are essential skills for legal writing. Writing becomes more accessible and more enjoyable if you do it regularly.

These writing tips can be used as a starting point. Always be open to constructive criticism and feedback.

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