How To Write Effective Legal Guidance 17 hints

If you’re a lawyer, chances are you’ve written a legal guidance document. Legal guidance documents are used by lawyers and other professionals to explain how laws apply to specific situations and scenarios. They allow for more flexibility than statutes or regulations, so they can be used in many different contexts.

These documents help people understand their rights and responsibilities under the law, but they also help lawyers provide better service to their clients since they can use these documents as guides when advising them on different legal issues.

Good Legal Writing Tips for Law Students – YouTube
1. Focus on clear and concise language.
2. Use headings and subheadings for better organization.
3. Address the reader’s needs and concerns.
4. Provide practical examples to illustrate your points.
5. Utilize signposts to guide the reader through the content.
6. Craft compelling introductions to grab the reader’s attention.
7. Use active voice for more engaging writing.
8. Break down complex concepts into digestible sections.
9. Maintain a logical flow throughout the guidance.
10. Incorporate relevant case studies and precedents.
11. Proofread and edit meticulously for clarity and accuracy.
12. Include visual aids to enhance understanding.
13. Provide practical solutions to legal issues.
14. Tailor your guidance to the intended audience.
15. Seek feedback from colleagues or mentors.
16. Use appropriate citations and references.
17. Keep the guidance up to date with current laws.

Identify The Purpose Of Your Document

Understand the purpose of your document. This is a vital step in writing any legal guidance, and it is especially important when you are writing something new. Make sure that you understand why this guide has been requested, who will need it and how they will use it. 

In addition, consider what their needs might be about future work for example: “The purpose of this document is to set out our data protection practices so that staff can ensure that any personal data we process complies with applicable laws.

The purpose of this document is to set out our recruitment policies so that applicants can apply for vacancies by these terms and conditions”.

Identify your audience(s). It is important to know who will be reading what you write – whether it’s an external stakeholder or someone internal within your organization (and potentially even a combination thereof). 

Consider how much legal knowledge they have, as well as whether some parts of the content may be more relevant than others depending on how familiar they already are with certain concepts such as ‘data protection.

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Consider The Needs Of The Reader

Consider the needs of the reader. To write effective legal guidance, you must consider who your audience is and what their needs are. If a reader has no experience with a subject, then he or she may need more background information than someone familiar with it. 

Similarly, if a person knows little about your organization’s policies and procedures, then he or she might require additional detail to understand them fully.

Focus on writing for readers in different environments: For example, some users might be working in an office setting while others are reading on computers at home or while traveling on airplanes; some users may have limited time available due to constraints such as work pressures and deadlines (e.g., “I need this written by tomorrow”).

Make A Plan And Stick To It

There’s nothing more disheartening than getting halfway through a piece of writing and realizing that you’ve lost your focus. With so many things vying for your attention, it can be tempting to simply throw in the towel and start over.

But don’t give up! Here are some tips for making sure everything stays on track:

Make a plan before you start writing. Know what you are going to write about, how long it will take, and where it fits into the overall scheme of things (e.g., whether it’s part of your final report or is just an addendum). 

And make sure that you have enough time to get this task done this step alone should probably take at least an hour if not more and work out any problems beforehand so they don’t derail later steps in the process.

Make sure that all necessary resources are available when needed so there will be no unexpected delays later on due to missing information/documents/etcetera.”

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Think About How You Will Structure Your Text

Some tips for structuring your text are:

Use headings and subheadings. Headings act as signposts for readers, helping them navigate the content and find what they need. They also break up the text so it’s easier to digest in chunks.

Use bullet points and numbered lists to highlight key information or steps. This format is especially useful when you’re talking about processes or procedures (i.e., “Step 1: do this.”). It can also be used to summarize important points (“This is why…”). 

Bullet-point lists are great on their own, but they can also be combined with numbered lists if you want to get fancy (like this!).

Include images that illustrate the point being made don’t just rely on words! Friendly cartoons or photos of people are good options; so are charts, graphs, maps, and other visual elements that help bring your guidance alive for readers by illustrating key concepts in a concrete way

Structure Your Content Using Headings And Paragraphs

You should structure your content using headings and paragraphs. This helps the reader navigate long documents, and it ensures that they understand the information you are presenting.

The best way to effectively use headings is to create them in a logical order based on what you’re saying, rather than just creating one heading for each section or idea you want to talk about (e.g., “The First Draft,” “Editing,” “Publishing”). For example, if I’m writing about how to write effective legal guidance, my headings might be:

  • Introduction
  • What Is Legal Guidance?
  • How Do You Write Effective Legal Guidance?

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Use Short, Simple Sentences And Short Words

If your legal guidance is difficult to understand, it’s unlikely that your employees will read it. And if they don’t read it, they won’t be able to follow the instructions correctly.

When writing or editing your legal guidance, use short sentences and short words (e.g., “don’t” instead of “do not”). 

Short sentences are easier for everyone involved to read they’re easier for you and your team members to write; they’re easier for readers to understand, and they’re easier for reviewers like me (hi!) when we proofread the final version before sending it out into the world!

Short words don’t just make your document more accessible they also make it more memorable. 

If you want employees to remember something (like exactly how many days after receiving a claim form an insurance company should send a response), keep things simple by using two-syllable words rather than five or six syllables every time someone reads them through again later on down the road in their career

Put The Most Important Information First

Put the most important information first. You must make your key legal points as clear and concise as possible. The way to do this is to put your key points at the beginning of a document, either on the first page or in each paragraph and sentence.

In this way, readers will not need to make an effort to find out what they want; they will be able to see it right away without having to read through any unnecessary material or wade through long paragraphs of text.

For example: “You must submit a completed application form by 31 December 2018” or “You are required to submit proof of identity documents before we can consider your application for international protection under EU law”

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Be Clear, Concise, And Consistent In How You Use Language

  • Be clear
  • Be concise

Use consistent language across your documents, including terms like “you” and “we”. If you’re writing in the first person (we), don’t switch to the second person (you) mid-sentence. If you’re using a particular word repeatedly throughout a document, keep using it wherever possible; otherwise, readers will get confused as they try to follow along.

Use only words that are necessary or appropriate for your audience and context don’t use complex jargon if there’s an easy way of saying something, especially when dealing with non-lawyers (e.g., “a general partner” rather than “GP”). 

Make sure it’s clear what each word means: avoid ambiguity by being specific about what you mean when using legal terms such as “affidavit”. Avoid words that aren’t understood by your target audience: if someone in China reads something with references to “the crown” or “the Queen”, they might not know what those words mean!

Use Visual Communication Carefully

Visual communication is an important part of the legal industry. However, it’s important not to go overboard with pictures and graphics.

Here are some tips for using images effectively:

  • Use relevant images that are clear, easy to understand, and relevant to your topic. If you can’t make them immediately clear, don’t use them at all!
  • Use relevant images that are relevant to the audience – don’t put a graphic image of a person holding their hands over their ears unless the article is about hearing protection in workplaces!

Write In An Accessible Style If You Are Writing For A General Audience

If you are writing for a general audience, make sure your language is simple and easy to understand. Use plain language (not “legalese”) and avoid jargon and technical terms that would only be understood by legal professionals. Write in short sentences and paragraphs so that readers can easily follow your argument or instructions. 

This style of writing will also help it read more like an instruction manual than a legal document, which may help readers take your advice more seriously.

If you can’t avoid using some technical terms, define them in the text as well as provide definitions at the beginning or end of your document (or both). 

You can use headings to break up sections of text so that each section has its topic sentence instead of a long paragraph this makes it easier for readers to see what they should focus on when skimming through your guidance documents.

Test Your Text On Different People

If you want to write effective legal guidance, it’s important to test your text on different people. These are some of the groups you can use:

Focus groups. You can gather a group of people who have no prior knowledge of your topic and ask them questions about it. 

For example, if you’re writing guidance on how to make home repairs, then ask members of a focus group what they think are the most common problems with homes in their area; this will help you learn what issues people might not understand or that seem confusing or difficult to handle. 

You could also create scenarios using actors as characters who have certain problems (for example, having bought an old house), and ask members of your focus group how they would recommend handling those situations from either their own experience or from advice given by others.

Test with colleagues at work (and outside). Ask other lawyers for feedback on the clarity and usefulness of your draft document you may be surprised at what they find confusing! 

Also, consider asking a colleague who doesn’t work directly with content creation for their thoughts; this can give valuable insight into how likely readers are going to react when presented with new information about something unfamiliar (like law).

Test experts/career professionals from related fields such as engineering or medicine: They’ll know better than anyone else whether anything is missing from their perspective that could lead readers astray when trying out certain tasks called out specifically within these types of documents.”

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Use Feedback To Improve Your Document

As you’re drafting your document, it’s important to get feedback from people who are not familiar with the subject matter. The most effective way to do this is through a proofreading or review process.

If you have access to other professionals who can proofread or review your document, even better! A fresh set of eyes will help catch errors that might otherwise slip through unnoticed even if they’ve been reviewed by someone else before being published.

And if you don’t have colleagues or friends who aren’t familiar with the subject matter? You can ask someone who works in another department or location where they are not as familiar with your field of expertise (or lack thereof). 

If they still don’t know what it means but understand what it says, then great! They will be able to give more objective feedback than anyone else on staff could provide because their expertise is not likely relevant here.

Review, Revise And Rewrite. Don’t Be Afraid To Start Over If Necessary

This is a big one. The key is to not assume that you know what someone else needs or wants, or how they will use the guidance that you are writing. It may even be the case that your understanding of what you have written is flawed! 

If there are parts of the document which aren’t clear, don’t just leave them as they are – find time to revise and rewrite them so they make sense to everyone who reads them.

It’s Hard To Write Good Legal Guidance Documents But It Can Be Great If You Have The Time And Resources

Writing good legal guidance documents is hard. You have to know your audience, you need to know the law, and you need to know the subject matter. You also have to be concise, clear, and consistent.

This makes it sound like writing good legal guidance documents is an impossible task for most people who want to write them but it’s not! If you just follow these simple tips then you’ll be on your way towards creating excellent guidance documents in no time at all:


Writing effective legal guidance documents is not easy, but it can be done. You just need to follow the tips we’ve given you here and make sure your writing is clear, concise, and consistent. Don’t be afraid if you need to rewrite a few times that’s normal! Good luck!

Further Reading


How can I improve the effectiveness of my legal writing?

Improving the effectiveness of your legal writing involves a combination of clear structuring, concise language, and addressing the reader’s needs. Consider utilizing guides like How to Write Effective Legal Guidance: 17 Hints to enhance your skills.

What steps should I follow to write popular legal articles?

A simple 5-step guide, as outlined in A Simple 5-Step Guide on How to Write Effective and Popular Legal Articles, can help you create engaging and widely-read legal articles.

How can I ensure my legal writing is clear and comprehensible?

For tips on creating clear and comprehensible legal writing, check out the Tips for Effective Legal Writing article, which provides insights into using plain language and effective structuring.

Are there specific techniques for improving legal communication?

Yes, resources like How to Write Effective Legal Guidance: 17 Hints often offer practical techniques for improving legal communication, such as using headings, subheadings, and clear signposting.

What role does language play in effective legal writing?

Language is a crucial element of effective legal writing. Utilize strategies discussed in Tips for Effective Legal Writing to ensure your language is precise, concise, and accessible to your audience.