Essentials of a good legal writing

Aakriti Mathur
Advocate,
High Court of Delhi


Abstract

A commonly accepted way to determine if a piece of writing is good is to evaluate its effectiveness. It is understood that if the writing is effective in serving its intended purpose, it is good legal writing. However, Mark Osbeck argues against this logic by pointing out that there may be various factors, which make writing effective without it being well written. The importance of legal writing in the law profession cannot be over emphasised. Bryan Garner once said, “Writing is one of the two great skills that will advance your career in law. (The other is people skills).” The purpose of different types of writing is different. A business letter may be written with intent to transact business. A newspaper article may be written for the purpose of information dissemination. A legal article too can be written for different purposes. It can be for creating public opinion. It can be descriptive such as compilation of cases. It can be persuasive such as articles arguing for reform. It can be analytical such as those, which examine the merits and demerits of a particular act. Thus the ability to produce good legal writing is coveted not only in legal academia but also in legal profession. In the first part, the paper identifies what constitutes good legal writing by distilling the common characteristics of well written legal articles. The paper argues that well written legal articles are clear, concise, accurate, engaging and elegant and explains the importance of each of these criteria. In the second part the paper explains how to write articles that satisfy the criteria of being clear, concise, accurate, engaging and elegant. The paper argues that use of plain language, avoiding legalese, proper punctuation and grammar, clarity of thought, adequate and accurate research, proper organisation, brevity in expression and engaging with the audience is the key to good legal writing.

Keywords: Legal Writing, Legal Research, Clear Writing, Plain Writing, Effective Legal Writing, Legal Article

Preferred Citation

Aakriti Mathur, Essentials of a good legal writing, The Lex-Warrier: Online Law Journal (2018) 5, pp. 236 – 245, ISSN (O): 2319-8338

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