Are 5 good writing habits enough?

I wrote a short piece for the Law Society Gazette in April, listing 5 good writing habits. Straight away, one reader emailed me back, suggesting that writing in the active voice deserves a place in the top 5. I agree, although the others are strong contenders too....

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Prolix defence struck out: shorter one ordered

A High Court judge struck out a 50-page defence as it “bears no resemblance to a professionally prepared statement of case”. Drafted by a solicitor, it began with a 3-page list of contents, followed by an 8-page summary. It ended with a 3-page index. This was the...

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Improving jury directions

Two professors at the University of Glasgow School of Law have published research into various methods of improving the directions the judges give to juries. They found that the most effective ways to impove jurors’ understanding of their task were to put the...

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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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