Sunday, July 28, 2013
Over at Legal Writing Editor, Joe Kimble has a nice take on the (hopefully long-settled?) debate over legalese in legal writing. The piece, You Think Anybody Likes Legalese?, makes a good point about the disconnect between what lawyers expect as readers and what they produce as writers:
Do you think anybody likes legalese? No. Nobody. Or I should say no body — not judges or lawyers or the public at large. All those groups strongly prefer plain language and find it more effective and persuasive. Besides that, they understand it better and faster, perform more accurately when they have to deal with it, and are more likely to read it in the first place. Please, purveyors and defenders of legalese, just look at the studies of your readers.
Now, I can hear the objections. “But clients expect legalese.” If they do, we should be ashamed of having conditioned them to expect it because they certainly don’t like it. “But my boss likes it the old way.” Then either try gentle persuasion or wincingly do what your boss wants, bide your time until you can decide, and know that your boss’s attitude and style are retrograde. “But most lawyers are still churning out legalese.” That’s the great disconnect: they forget as writers what they prefer as readers.