Documents are an extensive part of the legal practice which means legal writing is an important skill for lawyers to acquire as well. Be it any practice area, from court documents such as briefs and memoranda to internal communication in a law firm like client emails, letters, internal memos, and more – everything involves writing.
In simple terms, legal writing is the writing used in official legal documents related to legal matters. These include contracts, agreements, briefs, motions, and more.
It is also imperative for lawyers to set their writing style and tone in legal documents and for legal communication in such a way that it is appropriate and comprehensible for a wide range of audiences including courts, judges, clients, and whoever falls into the legal category who would review legal documents.
The main purpose of legal writing is to persuade the other party. Hence, the lawyer’s writing style and tone depends on the who you are writing for. A legal writer should be able to easily vary the writing tone for officials such as judges and writing tone for clients that is quite plain and simple compared to writing tone for officials.
Legal writing is a skill that needs to be developed and acquired by all legal professionals. Paralegals, lawyers, secretaries- everyone should be aware of legal writing skills. Let’s take a look at some of the basic tips legal professionals can start with when it comes to developing legal writing skills:
- Know your purpose
The first and most basic step is to understand why you are writing. The sole purpose of it. Some questions that can occur to you include: why am I writing this? What do I want to achieve from this?
Writing purposes will definitely differ as per the legal document you are working on. For instance, writing a contract may be to inform, writing a court document may be to persuade, and writing c client intake document may be to evaluate. Depending on the purpose, the writing tone and style will also differ.
- Understand your audience
Just like the prior point of purpose, it is important to know who you are writing for. Your audience. Understanding your audience will help you structure your writing style and tone better. As mentioned before, the legal writing that you do for legal professionals such as a judge will differ from the legal writing that you do for a client.
Writing for your audience comes with many different factors of consideration. The person’s role and their relationship to you, their age, income, economic status, level of education, and how much of knowledge they already have about what you are writing to them. This is will help you structure your legal writing in a more professional manner.
Research is the foundation of any writing and for good legal writing, research and incorporation of relevant legal examples into your documents is crucial. It is important for legal professionals to thoroughly study any material provided before they start their writing. This will provide them with an insight of legal issues.
- Content outline and structure
Once you are done with the research for your legal document, you may start creating your content outline and structure. This will help you keep your writing more organized and professional. A good outline includes writing the most important information on top, and then getting into the details later. This will make your legal writing look and feel less complicated.
While writing any legal document, it is important for your language to be clear and precise. Starting your document with direct and clear points will get your reader engaged from the start. Also keep in mind about the usage of active voice, consistent tenses, avoiding gender-specific terminology, no slang language, using jargon only when necessary and appropriate, and being accurate and specific in your writing.
- Edit and proofread
While budgeting for an editing and proofreading session is important, you can handle basic things in your writing all by yourself. Check for spelling and grammar mistakes. You can do this with the help of grammar-correction tools and apps that prove to be helpful in your legal writing. One useful tip while editing and proofreading is reading out your legal writing aloud.
- Take inspiration
One of the most common pieces of advice that writers receive is to take inspiration by reading other writers’ work. The same goes for legal writing as well. Looking up and reading good legal and business writers will help improve your legal writing skills drastically. Some materials from other writers may include legal books, blogs and articles.This will provide you with the general format of a legal document, and you can later incorporate your own unique ideas and writing style in your legal documents.
An important point to keep in mind is that just like any other craft or skills, practice makes perfect, and the same goes for legal writing. Build a foundation of your legal writing, keep practicing and improve it that will surely help you in your legal career.