The Look And Sound Of Expert Legal Writing

In the world of legal writing, it’s not uncommon to see different clients make different demands. Some require a full-fledged contract with no room for error; others just need a simple phone call log that shows who called whom when. 

What’s more, each client will have their unique preferences regarding the tone and style of said document. But before we get into that, let me start by saying: that you don’t have to be an expert in everything!

Write Like the Best Legal Writers Part 1 of 2 – YouTube
1. Visual Appeal: Expert legal writing should have a visually appealing layout with proper formatting, headings, and use of whitespace.
2. Clear Structure: Organize your legal writing with a clear and logical structure, including introductions, main content, and conclusions.
3. Concise Language: Use concise and precise language to convey complex legal concepts effectively. Avoid jargon or overly technical terms.
4. Engaging Tone: Maintain a professional but engaging tone to capture the reader’s attention and maintain their interest.
5. Citing Authority: Incorporate proper citations to back up your legal arguments and showcase a deep understanding of the subject matter.
6. Proofreading: Thoroughly proofread your work to eliminate grammatical errors, typos, and inconsistencies that can undermine your credibility.
7. Client Focus: Tailor your writing to your audience, whether it’s clients, colleagues, or judges, ensuring your content meets their needs.
8. Persuasive Arguments: Craft persuasive and well-reasoned arguments supported by evidence, legal precedent, and sound reasoning.
9. Avoid Ambiguity: Strive for clarity and avoid ambiguity, ensuring that your writing can be easily understood by those unfamiliar with the legal field.
10. Continuous Improvement: Legal writing is a skill that can always be refined. Continuously seek feedback and learn from experienced writers to enhance your expertise.

Use Active Voice

Active voice is preferred over passive voice.

Active voice is more direct, concise, and engaging. It’s easier to understand because it uses fewer words and doesn’t rely on a long string of prepositional phrases or clauses to describe the action. “The plaintiff claims” or “the plaintiff alleges” are examples of active sentences; they communicate immediately what the subject is doing (or has done).

Passive voice makes things hard to understand by obscuring who’s doing what with an excessively long string of prepositions that point out all sorts of verbs in the sentence without actually saying anything about them. 

Consider this example: “The defendant was sued by the plaintiff in a lawsuit alleging negligence resulting from subpar architecture at a condominium complex constructed by another developer under contract with the defendant.” That’s difficult for readers and especially jurors to follow!

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Use Appropriate Tense

To make your writing more engaging, choose the appropriate tense when discussing events in the past, present, and future.

The Present Tense

The present tense is used to discuss current events. For example: “I am a lawyer.” This can be confusing because it’s often used with other tenses as well. 

For instance, the statement above could also be written as “I was a lawyer last year at this time but now I’m not practicing any longer.” In this case, the first sentence is in present tense while the second sentence uses past tense (was).

Be Concise And Specific

A good legal writer is concise, specific, and clear. The reader should be able to get the point without wading through extraneous details. 

This means that you should avoid over-explaining your point by using flowery language or unnecessary exposition. Your writing should also be direct: use short sentences and paragraphs, as well as active verbs wherever possible.

Finally, try not to use words that are too vague or ambiguous for your intended audience’s level of expertise; if there’s a chance you’ll confuse someone with something technical or abstract (e.g., “by Justice X’s opinion in Case Y”), then avoid it altogether!

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Be Consistent

Consistency is important for reasons of clarity and professionalism.

Use the same terms and ideas throughout your document. Your reader should be able to find the information he or she needs without having to hunt through several paragraphs.

Use the same style of writing throughout your document. If you use colorful language in one section, don’t switch over to plain English in another part. Similarly, avoid using jargon or obscure legal terminology unless you’re certain that everyone will understand it (and even then, consider whether it might confuse some readers).

Use the same format throughout your document. If you use headings on one page but not another, readers may become confused when trying to follow along with what they’re reading or find what they’re looking for quickly enough without scrolling through a long document multiple times just because it doesn’t have any formatting guidelines! 

Similarly, if there are no bolded headers yet then maybe this could be because lawyers aren’t familiar with them.

Be Concise, But Use Full Sentences

When you’re writing, keep your sentences short. Use single-word sentences whenever possible. Don’t be afraid to use compound or complex sentences when necessary, but try to avoid them as much as possible. 

If a sentence is longer than 25 words, consider breaking it into multiple shorter ones instead of adding more content or making it longer by connecting two separate thoughts into one long sentence.

In addition to keeping your sentences short, use paragraphs with no more than three or four sentences each (fewer is better). This will help readers’ eyes stay on track and also make what you say easier to read on the page (especially important if someone unfamiliar with legal terminology needs to understand it).

Crafting a precise legal analysis memorandum is fundamental in the legal field. Dive into the process of creating well-structured documents with our guide on How to Write a Legal Analysis Memorandum and enhance your legal writing skills.

Use Parallel Structure Within A Sentence Or A-List

Parallel structure is when you use the same grammatical structure in a list, such as all nouns or all verbs.

Here are two examples of parallel structure:

  • “He ate his cereal with milk, then he drank his juice, and then he brushed his teeth.”
  • “He ate his cereal with milk; then he drank his juice, and then he brushed his teeth.”

Nonparallel structure occurs when you don’t use the same grammatical form in every item on your list. Here’s an example of a non-parallel structure:

“He ate breakfast every morning before going to work at 8 am.”

To fix this kind of error, ask yourself if all of your items have similar endings (like “-ing” for verbs and “-ed,” “-ing,” or “-don’t” for auxiliary verbs). If not, make sure each word has a similar ending so that it fits with all other words in the sentence or paragraph.

Take It Easy On The Italics

Most lawyers would be well-served to stop using italics altogether. They’re something that everyone knows how to do, but there are only so many times you can use them before they start feeling like a crutch. 

As a general rule of thumb, don’t go crazy with the italics unless you have good reason to do so. When used sparingly and properly, italics can make your writing more engaging and improve its readability. When used too frequently or ineffectively, however, they simply distract from what’s important: your ideas and arguments as expressed through words on paper (or screen).

If you want to emphasize a word or phrase with italics at some point in your document, ask yourself if it’s already emphasized in some other way—through bold text or perhaps even bolder font size. If not, then maybe an emphasis isn’t necessary at all! If so…well then maybe just leave it alone for now

Don’t Overuse Quotation Marks

In the legal world, quotation marks are used to indicate that the word or phrase enclosed within them is being said by someone else. This is especially true in court transcripts, were “said” and “asked” are substituted with a parenthetical containing the name of the person speaking:

  • The judge asked [the defendant], “What did you do?”
  • [The defendant] replied, “I went to work.”

Here are some other common situations where quotation marks can be helpful:

To emphasize a word or phrase (see above). For example: “You have been served!” would sound much more forceful than “You have been served.” I would probably prefer “You have been served! 

If someone were coming after me with legal papers because they found out my cat ate their neighbor’s chickens while I was away on vacation (a real situation). 

Or maybe this hypothetical scenario doesn’t apply at all who knows? But if it does apply to your life experience (either as an attorney or as a cat owner who has recently returned from vacation), then by all means use this tip liberally and often!

Signpost For The Reader

You should also make sure that your writing is well organized so that readers can easily find the information they need. The best way to do this is to use heading and subheading styles. These include headings (H1), subheadings (H2), and bulleted lists.

Heading 1: Level 2 headings begin with a capital letter and are followed by a flush left to text or other paragraph breaks; they may also be preceded by an en dash if followed by a space or new paragraph break before the next heading begins. Subheadings are formatted with bold text for emphasis, but no capitalization (following the Chicago Manual’s recommendations).

How should I signpost my document?

Effective legal writing involves mastering certain elements to convey information clearly. Explore the essential components in our resource on 12 Elements of Good Legal Writing and learn how to create impactful legal documents.

Link Ideas With Connecting Words And Phrases

Linking words and phrases are as important to your writing as particle conjunctions. These little words and phrases tie sentences together, create cohesion, and keep readers on track. It’s okay if you’re not familiar with all of them we’ll get there in this section. 

What’s important right now is that you understand the difference between linking words and phrases (which connect ideas) and particle conjunctions (which are used to join clauses).

Linking words: Adverbs like “however” or “furthermore”; adverbs that start with “-ly,” such as “generally” or “specifically”; prepositions that start with “into,” like “in addition to”; verbs such as “propose”; adjectives like “similar” or “different.”

Linking Phrases

Phrases beginning with conjunctive adverbs, such as “however” or “therefore”; relative pronouns, including who/whom/that; subordinating conjunctions like although/because/although, although.

Edit For Flow And Rhythm

  • Use the active voice.
  • Use appropriate tense.
  • Be concise and specific.

Be consistent in your choice of words, your formatting, and other stylistic choices throughout the document for a cohesive appearance that conveys professionalism and authority to the reader.

Make sure each sentence has its subject-verb pair that are connected by a linking verb (or “to be” verbs). If you can’t find one, try using a different sentence structure or rephrasing it all together (sometimes this means removing unnecessary information). 

This will help ensure that your writing flows smoothly from start to finish without awkwardness or confusion along the way; if you’re not sure whether something might be confusing readers when they read it in context, consider reading it aloud yourself out loud you’ll often hear things differently than when you’re just looking at them on paper under normal circumstances! 

Try to avoid creating sentences with multiple clauses separated by commas; instead, use conjunctions such as “and” or “but” where appropriate so that ideas flow together naturally with no gaps between them this will also give them more impact when read aloud! 

In addition to making things easier on readers’ brains while they’re trying their best not to miss anything important (which could cause big problems down the road), editing this way also makes documents easier for editors who may need some time off here down there before returning later which brings us back around full circle.

It all starts with good communication skills! For example: “If someone needs help to understand what was said during a meeting because some people talked louder than others then.

Write For Your Audience

You should also keep in mind that you’re writing for an audience, and not just yourself. The way you write will differ depending on who reads it. For example, if you’re writing a memo to a supervisor or client, then you might choose to use more formal language than if you were writing instructions for one of your employees.

When choosing tone and style, ask yourself what kind of impression you want this document to make. What do my readers need from me? Is there any particular reason why this document needs to have a certain emotional impact on them?

Finally, remember that your professionalism is always on display in everything that comes out of your mouth or fingers. It doesn’t matter whether the document is being drafted by hand or typed on a computer keyboard; its appearance still carries consequences for how people perceive your work and its author.”

Elevate your legal writing prowess with comprehensive insights from The Ultimate Legal Writing Handbook. This resource offers a wealth of knowledge to help you navigate the complexities of the legal writing process.


The good news is that legal writing is not a lost art. The bad news is that it’s becoming harder to find professional writers who can do it well. 

Whether you’re looking for help with the basics or the most sophisticated documents, we have you covered. We offer affordable rates and flexible deadlines so that you can get back to doing what matters most: practicing law and serving your clients!

Further Reading

10 Tips from Legal Writing Experts: Explore expert advice and valuable tips for improving your legal writing skills from this insightful resource.

Plain Language Legal Writing – Part II: Learn about the importance of writing in plain language for effective legal communication in this comprehensive guide.

Legal Writing and Analysis: Delve into the world of legal writing and analysis through this scholarly article that offers valuable insights into the craft.


How can I improve my legal writing skills?

Improving your legal writing skills involves practicing clear and concise expression, mastering proper citation methods, and seeking feedback from peers or mentors.

Why is plain language important in legal writing?

Using plain language in legal writing enhances clarity and accessibility, ensuring that legal documents can be understood by a wider audience, including non-lawyers.

What resources can help me become an expert in legal writing?

Resources such as articles from reputable legal associations, books on legal writing techniques, and online writing courses can aid in honing your legal writing expertise.

How do I structure a legal analysis memorandum?

A legal analysis memorandum typically follows a structured format, including an issue statement, brief facts, legal analysis, and a conclusion, allowing for effective communication of legal insights.

What is the significance of citation in legal writing?

Citations lend credibility to your legal arguments by referencing authoritative sources, allowing readers to verify and explore the legal foundations of your claims.