Effective Communication: How to Write Like a Lawyer

“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing. ”

— Benjamin Franklin

All lawyers write; few write like a lawyer. That’s because most lawyers miss the goal of writing: effective communication.

Most lawyers write in bloodless, dry language. Their sentences are peppered with archaic language no one, outside of the law, uses. Have you ever thought to use the words “pursuant to, prior to, or hereinafter”? Who talks like that? These words border on the ridiculous.

Most lawyers don’t write like a lawyer. They use legal language in legal contexts, but their writing falls short of the purpose of writing, which is effective communication.

Comprehension is the goal, not confusion.  Persuasion and entertainment are sometimes secondary goals, but the primary goal is always effective communication.

To write like a lawyer is to communicate effectively with another person. A lawyer must be able to communicate effectively by the written word.

How to do that? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Brevity is essential, so get to your point ;
  • Avoid legalese (e.g. “said, pursuant to”) like the plague;
  • Occasionally use vivid, descriptive language for dramatic effect;
  • Strike a balance between formal and informal writing;  you’re not writing the Arms Trade Treaty and you’re not writing a high school love poem;
  • Nouns should be close to verbs;
  • Use paragraphs liberally;
  • Sentences should have no more than 20 words;
  • Never start a sentence with “However”;
  • Don’t use “and/or”; make a choice to use one or the other;
  • Use headings;
  • Use quoted language sparingly; minimize the use of block quotes;
  • Use active, not passive, sentences;
  • Avoid stuffing your writing full of dates;
  • Learn to love numbered or bulleted lists; and
  • Avoid excessive emphasis and excessive definition.

Remember, the goal is clarity. You must be able to communicate with the other person effectively. If you don’t, then you missed the point even if your prose is pretty.

Questions? Contact Me for a free consultation.

Evan Walker

Evan W. Walker is a La Jolla attorney who has practiced law since 2008. He is licensed to practice in California, Connecticut, and Louisiana. His entire practice has been in litigation.

Evan is from a small town outside of New Orleans. He attended law school in New Orleans, which was interrupted by Hurricane Katrina. After evacuating to Houston, Evan graduated in 2008 as part of the ‘Hurricane Katrina Class.’

After graduation, Evan worked for a New Orleans insurance defense firm. He defended insurance companies against Hurricane Katrina lawsuits brought by homeowners and business owners.

In 2010, he and his wife moved to New Haven, Connecticut, so his wife could complete a medical residency at Yale. During the next few years, Evan worked for Travelers Insurance Company defending countless personal injury lawsuits.

In 2014, he moved to San Diego so his wife could complete a medical fellowship at UCSD. He then opened his own firm to represent people after years of defending insurance companies.

Evan is a Featured Faculty at Attorney Credits, a CLE company, and a regular contributor to various podcasts and publications. He has also been interviewed by San Diego television stations about his cases and practice.

Evan spent almost a decade as a defense attorney who defended insurance companies from personal injury and property damage lawsuits. He knows how insurance companies bully people and deny claims. And he knows how to fight them.

Bar Admissions: California Connecticut (inactive) Louisiana (inactive)

Acta Non Verba

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