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California law firms graded on drafting

Clerk is software designed to analyse briefs, highlight strengths and weaknesses, and grade their chances of success. According to Clerk, a plaintiff should avoid citing a case in which the defendant won. And, obviously, an advocate should ensure quotations are...

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Lawyers deny client reactions to legal language

The Legal Ombudsman commissioned research into the impact of lawyers’ language in complaint handling and in its own communications. Interviews with 15 individuals and 4 groups suggested that dissatisfied clients take their lawyers’ jargon as an attack, intended to...

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“Indirect and consequential loss” misunderstood

I’ve long suspected that contract users don’t understand “indirect and consequential loss” as the courts say they should. In January, I had the chance to survey members of the International Association for Contract and Commercial Management, asking what these terms...

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Judge reversed for giving understandable jury direction

There is a risk in plain language, especially if no one has asked you to clarify. In a US trial for witness tampering, Judge Richard Posner refused to ask the jury whether the accused had acted “corruptly”, meaning “with the purpose of wrongfully impeding the due...

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World’s first cartoon contract

The suppliers of Clemengold mandarins have put their contract for fruit pickers into comic book format, designed by South African lawyer Robert du Rooy. Two lawyers advised that the cartoon contract was legal and binding. Of 213 fruit pickers who were asked to sign...

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Judge annoyed, writer embarrassed

Mr Justice Holgate has published a judgment spelling out the effect on the judge of long and confused written arguments. He focused on the extra time the judge must spend on pre-reading, hearing the case, and writing the judgment. The impact on the writer appears...

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Who wants plain language?

Three studies published this summer conclude that respondents value plain English and would like more from their advisors and regulators. Was that too obvious to mention in a blog? CMA stakeholder perceptions survey 2016/17, 26 June 2017 LSB research: consumers with...

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Which courts receive the simplest arguments?

An American lawyer has analysed 600 appellant briefs written for three courts in the USA. He found that the simplest writing style appeared in briefs written for the US Supreme Court, even though the court decides complex questions. Average sentence length and use of...

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Template agreements: edit with care

In 1999 I asked 35 lawyers to name the biggest pitfall in contract drafting. The most common answer was the unthinking use of templates and previous documents, not adapted to the deal. Or, as one lawyer put it, "Slavish following of precedents, inability to engage...

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Interpreting “devise” and “bequeath”

In the past, wills would “devise” land and “bequeath” personal property. This distinction could cause trouble if someone unaware of it used the words incorrectly, or wordiness if they used both unnecessarily. The word “give” does not raise these difficulties. The Law...

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