What are the best legal writing tips that any lawyer or legal professional can use? Legal writing, whether you’re a confident writer or not, is an important skill for any lawyer, regardless of the area of practice you choose. From court documents like motions, discovery documents, briefs, and memoranda to internal communications like letters, client emails, internal memos, and more, there’s a lot of writing.
Lawyers must also ensure that their writing style, tone, and voice in legal documents and communication are appropriate for a diverse range of audiences, including courts, judges, and clients.
Briefs and memoranda are court documents that require fact and case investigation, analysis, presentation of information, and argumentation. Lawyers must be authoritative, credible, and persuasive in their writing in order to be considered skilled legal writers.
10 tips on how to become a great legal writer.
- Examine the work of other authors
Reading is the most typical piece of advice given by authors to anyone wishing to enhance their writing talents, and this advice applies to all sorts of writing. To enhance your legal writing abilities, look for skilled legal and business writers and study their work. This could include legal documents, but it could also include books, blogs, and articles.
You’ll get a sense of the general format of a legal document by studying and understanding how others write and structure their pieces. After that, you can incorporate your ideas and writing style. You could also ask colleagues for examples of their work, or you could participate in communities and forums to find examples.
- Proofread and edit
The legal writing process does not end when the piece is completed. One of the most common errors writers make is failing to budget for the editing phase—a thorough editing and review process requires time.
Although having someone else edit and proofread your work is always good, you should be able to tackle the essentials on your own. Master the fundamentals of spelling and grammar—lawyers who present documents with spelling and grammatical errors are perceived as less credible and lacking in attention to detail.
It’s understandable that it can be difficult to spot spelling and grammatical errors right away. When you’ve read your document several times, you’re likely to gloss over your own errors. Other helpful legal writing tips for the editing process include reading your writing aloud or backwards to help concentrate your concentration and discover faults you would otherwise miss.
- Make an outline
Organizing your research into an outline is one of the most helpful legal writing tips for improving your legal writing skills. Starting with an outline will help you stay organized and focused on your writing.
A good outline begins by outlining the topic in detail, with the most important information at the top. Then, fill in the gaps with supporting details while ensuring that the transitions between points make sense. When you have an outline to help organize your ideas and guide your writing process, legal writing becomes much easier and less intimidating.
- Recognize your goal
What is the first, and perhaps most crucial, legal writing tip? Recognize the purpose of your writing.
Ask yourself, “Why am I writing what I’m writing?” What do you hope to achieve? What do you hope to achieve as a result of your efforts?
Writing a contract can be used to inform, while court documentation can be used to persuade and client intake documentation can be used to evaluate. Depending on the purpose of your legal writing, the structure, tone, and voice of the document will change.
Understanding why you’re writing will help you write better.
- Recognize your target audience
Knowing who you’re writing for will help you shape the structure and tone of your work. A judge, another lawyer (including an opposing lawyer), or a client will all have different experiences and expectations that will influence how they read your writing.
In addition to their role and relationship to you, consider their age, income and economic status, level of education, values, and how much they already know about what you’re writing about. This will assist you in determining the tone, style, and level of detail to include in your writing. If you are looking for the best legal writing company Peachy Essay can assist you.
- Conduct your research
Researching and incorporating relevant legal precedents into your documents is required for good legal writing. Before you begin writing, thoroughly read any provided material to ensure that you understand the legal issues and are aware of the applicable jurisdiction.
Every case and document is unique, but following a few basic rules for legal research will help you succeed. FastCase, Legal Information Institute (LII), and CourtListener are some useful legal research tools.
Secondary sources, such as legal dictionaries, law reports, and academic journals, may also be useful in your research depending on the piece you’re writing. To establish mandatory and persuasive authority, for example, you’ll need both primary and secondary sources.
- Take note of the content structure
Writing from the top down is the best way to structure any piece. Begin by explaining why you’re writing and what you’re writing about, and then provide evidence to back up your claims.
Choose your strongest or most persuasive arguments to focus your writing on, and then filter additional, supporting arguments. Headings can be used to break up sections and transition from one argument to the next, and summary sentences can be used to start new sections. It may also be beneficial to use lists and bullets where appropriate to make your writing scannable for the reader.
- Make your point
To help guide the reader through any type of legal document, state your point directly and clearly within the first few sentences. Assume that the reader has little time or patience, that they despise reading, and that they will only read the first 200 words. What you say in those 200 words will influence their decision to keep reading.
- Only use jargon when necessary
Jargon, including legal terms, is only appropriate in certain situations. Using too much “legalese” with a client who is unfamiliar with specific legal issues, for example, may end up confusing them and muddying the conversation with unnecessary questions.
Because another attorney, judge, or magistrate will be reading your court documents, it is completely appropriate (and sometimes even necessary) to use the correct jargon and terminology.
When possible, use plain language in your legal writing while demonstrating that you understand jargon and can present it in simple ways for the reader.
- Utilize useful tools and apps
No matter what medium or document you’re writing in, all good writers should use spell check at the very least. Legal writing has also become much easier as writing technology has advanced. Grammarly and Ginger, for example, are writing apps that can help you catch grammar, spelling, and other language errors.
If you don’t always have an editor available to help proofread your legal writing (which most don’t), text-to-speech apps like Linguatec and Natural Reader can help. This will aid in the detection of errors and awkward passages.
While some of these services are free, many will have a paid version with additional features. If your job requires a lot of writing, consider investing in some of these paid versions—worth it’s it to take your legal writing skills to the next level.