A blog by in-house lawyer, Olly Buxton, posted by Legal Business this week made an entertaining read. The post examines lawyers’ tendency to make a simple sentence – Unless we hear from you before the end of the week, we'll assume you are happy with the term sheet - into a 500 word contract full of legalease, barely understandable to anyone without legal training. It’s a great explanation of how easily this can happen, as lawyers seek to eliminate any room for misunderstanding from contracts and to minimise risk for their clients.
This chimes with many of the press articles and comment from lawyers that have passed over my desk over the years. Lawyers, used to drafting legal documentation on a daily basis, can have a tendency to bring this style into their writing, producing overly technical copy that is wordy and littered with unnecessary Capital Letters and footnotes.
Unfortunately this writing style doesn’t necessary play well when writing for the press or providing newsworthy comment; journalists are looking for copy with a bit of life to it, with strong opinions and simple clear language.
Writing clear insightful copy that speaks to your audience and demonstrates expertise in your chosen area is not always easy, particularly when it requires turning very technical arguments into something that a lay person can easily grasp. The effort will be well worth it however, whether it’s for a blog, the press or a client newsletter, getting your content right can pay dividends in terms of raising your profile in the market and even generating direct leads.
Writing properly florid legal text takes years of practice. No-one enjoys reading it: not even the curmudgeon who has taken the trouble to write it. Construing a contract should not be a bodily pleasure but an act of ascetic sufferance, the reward for which comes in the hereafter*. Lawyers do this so you don't have to.