Write legal documents for real people

Jayne Dalmer | August 22, 2016

How do you measure the success of legal documents? All the expertise and all the words in the world are a waste of time if readers remain in the dark.

Before you write a word, think about who you’re writing for — a client, another lawyer in the firm, another lawyer outside the firm, a judge, a clerk, a new parent, a student, a board, or all of these.

There’s no point using terms only lawyers will understand if some of your readers aren’t lawyers. Latin belongs in Ancient Rome, not in a letter on someone’s kitchen table. Documents peppered with legalese, complicated clauses, and a turgid tone turn readers off and work against your purpose as their advisor.

Image, Latin writing on an old roman ruin.

Latin belongs here, not on the kitchen table. Image by penjelly / CC BY-ND

Your clients may dutifully sign your legal documents even if they don’t understand them. But is this really what you want? How does this help them trust you and your business? Your clients deserve clear legal documents, just like you deserve clients who trust you and use your services again.

Our big wide world is filled with people from different cultures, different education levels, different priorities, and different abilities. They all deserve equal access to legal information.

How do you clearly identify your readers and write for the person who’s least likely to understand?

Our new legal writing workshop looks at all these curly questions. And it has more than a few answers too!

Insights, tips, and professional development opportunities.