ALM Properties, Inc.
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Why Legal Needs to Ease Out of Legalese
Prior to the termination of this document, refer to the following paragraphs of which, inter alia, seek to indicate it is apparent that the utilization of plain language is exceedingly requisite in a large amount of circumstances in which your legal department is involved.
Legalese and Legal
Kimble argues that being “understood by their readers” should be one of the top goals of an in-house legal department—when drafting contracts, memoranda, policies, or even just emails to coworkers. “It’s as important for legal departments as it is for any other lawyer,” he explained. Not causing a reader to expend unnecessary effort is a cornerstone to good legal writing. An in-house lawyer’s readers, including the CEO and other company executives, “resent writers who waste their time,” and no one likes to be resented.
Keep it Simple
Legalese is “the traditionally dense, verbose, archaic, inflated language that has characterized legal writing for centuries,” explained Kimble. Plain language, by contrast, “is writing clearly and as simply as possible—for your intended audience.” By replacing “prior to” with “before,” “pursuant to” with "under," in-house lawyers will go a long way in clarifying meaning. “Don’t turn verbs into nouns. Don’t turn ‘consider’ into ‘give consideration to,’ ” he says.
Formatting and White Space
When he first became interested in the plain language movement in the 1970s, Kimble explained that he was most obviously put off by the archaic language in legal documents. But his understanding of plain language has evolved since then, and he says it “embraces all the techniques for clear communication, not just vocabulary.” For example, the organization and design of a document are integral to the reader experience.
Testing is for Legal Products, Too
Kimble believes it’s shortsighted not to test legal products, like insurance contracts, before sending them out to thousands of consumers. Readability and ease of understanding are two key components to any legal document—and testers can help ensure these factors are present. “The cost of testing those documents before you use them is so small compared with the potential savings,” he said.