Legal Writing 101 – A Guide To Getting Started

If you’ve ever had to read a legal document, you know that it can be difficult to understand. Legal writing is often complex and full of jargon, which means that it can be confusing if you’re not used to it. 

But don’t worry! In this guide we’ll cover everything you need to know about legal writing: why it’s important, how it differs from other types of writing, common mistakes that people make when they write in their legal field (and how not to do those things), and some tips for improving your skills.

Legal Writing: A Brief Introduction – YouTube
1. Clarity is Key: Write in clear and concise language to ensure your message is easily understood.
2. Organize Effectively: Structure your writing logically with headings, subheadings, and bullet points to enhance readability.
3. Use Precise Language: Avoid jargon and use precise terminology to convey legal concepts accurately.
4. Cite Properly: Properly cite sources using appropriate legal citation formats to maintain credibility and integrity.
5. Analyze and Argue: Develop well-reasoned arguments by analyzing legal issues thoroughly and presenting a compelling case.

What Is Legal Writing?

Legal writing is a specialized form of writing that has its own rules and structure. It’s used in the legal profession, so it’s different from other types of writing like novel-writing or journalism. Legal documents are also different from each other in ways that might not be obvious to someone who hasn’t studied legal writing before.

Legal writing is a tool for lawyers – they use it to explain complex information to judges and juries, as well as their clients. You must understand how this specialized type of text functions before you start drafting your legal documents!

Building a strong foundation for legal arguments requires thorough research. Explore our collection of Legal Research Guides for Student Attorneys to enhance your understanding of effective legal research strategies.

What Are The Different Types Of Legal Writing?

When you think of writing, what comes to mind? Perhaps it’s the kind of work you do every day or perhaps it’s something else. In this section, we’ll cover the basics of what legal writing is and how it differs from other types of writing.

Legal writing is different from other types of writing in several ways. This type of document focuses primarily on communicating information and arguments in a logical way that will be easily understood by judges and juries who may not have an extensive understanding of certain topics. 

These documents must also conform strictly to certain guidelines (referred to as “bluebook”) set down by professional associations such as The American Bar Association (ABA). 

Legal documents are generally used for contracts between two parties; briefs filed with courts; memos within an organization outlining research findings; letters sent out by attorneys representing clients during litigation proceedings; etcetera.

How Does Legal Writing Differ From Other Types Of Writing?

The main difference between legal writing and other types of writing is that the former is more structured and formal than the latter. 

Lawyers aren’t just expected to write in a way that’s easy to read; they’re also expected to use language that makes the meaning of their ideas as clear as possible. In legal settings, this means using precise phrases, avoiding ambiguity (where possible), and using technical terms properly.

This doesn’t mean you need to become an expert in every aspect of law before starting your first project but it does mean that if you don’t have at least some basic understanding of how laws are created and applied, then you’ll want to do some research before getting started on any big projects.

Crafting a compelling legal memorandum is essential for clear communication in the legal field. Our guide on How to Write a Legal Memorandum offers practical tips and examples to help you create concise and well-structured legal documents.

Why Is It So Important To Be Good At Legal Writing?

If you’re in the legal field or plan to be, you must learn how to write well. The reason for this is simple: legal writing is the most formal type of writing. Many people would argue that it’s one of the most important types of communication out there (some even say it’s more important than speech).

This makes sense when you consider how many tasks lawyers perform every day: they draft contracts and agreements; review financial statements; communicate with clients and colleagues via email; present oral arguments before judges; and write briefs and memoranda (legal documents explaining their positions on various cases). 

All these tasks require effective communication skills which usually means good writing abilities!

What Are Common Mistakes In Legal Writing?

You might think that using the wrong font is a no-brainer, but it’s not uncommon. Most people who are new to legal writing have an idea of what a “good” font is, but they may not be able to articulate why it looks good or how it came about. 

For example, you might think that all fonts look fine in black and white text on white paper, but do they? When was this decision made? Do your colleagues agree with you? What kind of research went into picking out that specific choice in color scheme and layout? 

The answer is that there isn’t one right answer; there are many different ways for lawyers to express themselves through their documents and each approach can be just as valid as another if done well.

Providing precise and effective legal guidance is key to supporting your clients. Discover 17 Hints for Writing Effective Legal Guidance to enhance your skills in delivering accurate and valuable advice.

What Are Some Tips For Improving Your Legal Writing Skills?

The following are some tips for improving your legal writing skills:

Be concise. Brevity is crucial in any type of writing, but it’s even more important when you need to explain an idea without wasting any words.

Use active voice instead of passive voice. This means using “I” and “we” rather than “it was,” “it had been,” “it is,” etc., whenever possible.

Use short sentences rather than long ones with multiple clauses that run on for paragraphs or pages at a time (unless the document is meant for legal analysis). Shorter sentences also help keep readers focused; they don’t have time to get bored with what they’re reading before moving on!

What Tools Can Help You With Legal Writing?

One of the first tools that you should have in your arsenal is a good dictionary. This is where lawyers look up words that they don’t know or do not understand and carefully consider their meanings. As a law student or lawyer, it’s important to be able to communicate what the law means so that others can easily understand it. 

A good dictionary will make this task easier for you by giving you access to multiple definitions for any given word and helping you choose which definition applies in context (if any).

A second essential tool is a good grammar reference book like Strunk & White’s Elements of Style or Bryan Garner’s Modern American Usage (2nd ed.). These books will guide you through proper sentence structure and rules about punctuation so that your writing will be clear and concise at all times.

The third piece of equipment necessary for legal writing success is an excellent style manual such as The Bluebook: 

A Uniform System of Citation by Harvard Law Review Association; ALWD 1-08 Legal Writing Deskbook (2nd Ed) by American Law Institute/American Bar Association; The SALT Guide: Strategic Approaches To Legal Writing By Susan Wimbish & Kathleen Bartels; Legal Writing in Plain English 5th Edition By Bryan Garner

Writing persuasive legal briefs can significantly impact case outcomes. Learn strategies and techniques from our resource on How to Write Legal Briefs that Rule to strengthen your advocacy skills and present compelling arguments.

Legal Writing Is A Unique And Necessary Skill That’s Important To Master

Legal writing is a unique and necessary skill that’s important to master. While you may have already encountered legal issues in your life, such as signing contracts or responding to a lawsuit, most people don’t realize that legal writers are responsible for much more than just these types of documents. 

Legal writers also create laws and regulations, draft contracts and agreements, conduct research on cases and precedents (previous decisions), maintain company policies, prepare memos and letters for management review, write reports about cases decided by judges or juries, help attorneys with trial preparations the list goes on!

As you can see from this list of tasks above (and there are many other examples), the work done by legal writers is essential for society at large.

Without it there would be no clear set of rules governing how all citizens should behave within their communities or countries; there would be no way for two parties to come together under contract terms; there would be no way for businesses large or small (from multinational corporations down)

Dive into the world of legal writing with our comprehensive guide, The Ultimate Guide to Legal Writing. Whether you’re a beginner or seeking advanced insights, this resource covers a wide range of topics to enhance your proficiency in legal communication.


Legal writing is a skill that can be difficult to master. However, if you’re anything like me, it’s worth the effort! Legal writing is an important part of your legal career and will help you get ahead in your field. 

By understanding what makes good legal writing different from other types of writing and by learning some tips for improving your skills, you’ll be able to produce amazing documents with confidence.

Further Reading

Legal Writing Basics: Explore essential concepts in legal writing, including clarity, organization, and effective communication techniques.

Writing Skills for Legal Research: Enhance your writing skills within the context of legal research, covering topics such as citation, argumentation, and analysis.

Enhance Your Legal Writing: Discover tips for improving your legal writing skills, including strategies for concise and persuasive communication.

And here’s the “FAQs” section with semantic-based questions and answers:


How do I improve my legal writing skills?

Improving your legal writing skills involves practicing clear and concise communication, mastering proper citation methods, and organizing your arguments effectively.

What are some common legal writing pitfalls to avoid?

Common pitfalls include excessive use of legalese, lack of clarity in conveying complex ideas, and inadequate organization of arguments.

Where can I find resources to enhance my legal research and writing?

You can explore resources such as online guides from reputable law schools, library websites, and academic institutions that offer advice and tips for improving legal research and writing.

How important is citation in legal writing?

Citation is crucial in legal writing as it ensures your work’s credibility, supports your arguments, and allows readers to verify your sources. Proper citation also prevents plagiarism.

What role does persuasive writing play in legal documents?

Persuasive writing is vital in legal documents, such as briefs and memos, as it aims to convince the reader of a particular legal position or argument. It involves crafting compelling narratives and presenting evidence effectively.