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March 18, 2024

Redux: The War Against Legal-Speak


Sir John Popham (1531–1607) was an MP, Speaker of the House of Commons, and Lord Chief Justice of England. We think he would speak and write differently if he were alive today.

Lawyer-Speak and Legalese. Of the lamer lawyer-centric institutions, only "Professionalism" and "Work-Life Balance" are more embarrassing, abused and irrelevant, and more likely to undermine clients, than the way in which many lawyers continue to speak and write. At least those two prissy battle cries originally had a point. But Legalese never had a point.

A few years ago, a law firm sent us a draft of a simple housekeeping agreement. It was a 3-page confidentiality agreement used during talks for an acquisition. We responded by submitting our own draft because, among other things, the draft we had received (presumably a "model" they had around their office) contained this language:

"Effective on even date herewith, the parties hereto hereby agree to...".

Whoa. How about just one date at the top or bottom of the Agreement and then say "The parties agree..."? And if the whole thing is an "Agreement", with language showing that the parties intend to be bound, maybe you don't even need that?

Either would save trees, ink and space, and would get the idea of contract across, and out of the way. And either would help diminish the image of the self-important "I'm-special" lawyer rocking back and forth in his chair, and talking to himself like a mental patient.

(from past WAC? posts)

Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at March 18, 2024 11:59 PM


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