What All Lawyers Should Know About Legal Writing

Whether you’re a lawyer or not, the legal writing section of this blog post is for you. Whether you’re writing briefs and motions or just personal letters to friends and family, having a strong grasp of legal writing will help make your words more effective and be sure that they don’t land you in hot water with judges, clients, or anyone else who might read them. So let’s get started!

Write Like a Lawyer | 7 Common Legal Writing Mistakes!
Key Takeaways
1. Understanding the Importance of Clear Communication
2. Addressing Common Mistakes in Legal Writing
3. Emphasizing Proper Citation and Referencing
4. Structuring Legal Documents for Maximum Impact
5. Tailoring Writing to the Intended Audience
6. Leveraging Tone and Language Appropriately
7. Incorporating Persuasive Techniques
8. Utilizing Legal Writing Resources and Tools
9. Seeking Feedback for Continuous Improvement
10. Navigating Ethical Considerations in Legal Writing

Don’t Spread Yourself Too Thin

You are in a unique position you have the opportunity to provide advice on a broad range of issues. But when you’re working on multiple projects at once, it can be difficult to focus on what matters most.

So, how should you approach multi-tasking? First, focus on the big picture. Ask yourself: “What do I want my client’s result or goal to be?” Then, zoom out even more and ask yourself: “How does this project fit into my overall professional development plan?” Finally, think about how each project fits into your long-term plans for yourself and your firm.

With these questions answered (and kept top of mind), it’s much easier to make decisions about which projects deserve attention first and which ones need extra time before being prioritized over other opportunities.

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Don’t Put Big-Picture Decisions On The Back Burner

You should also never put off decision-making. It’s so easy to get busy and forget about the big picture, but it’s important to make time for these discussions. Don’t wait until you’re in a crisis, or until the last day of the month wait too long and your options will be limited if something goes wrong somewhere along the way.

Also, avoid procrastinating on legal documents as well; don’t wait until tomorrow or next week because sometimes things can happen quickly. For example: If someone sues you today and they want a quick response from you (like checking their court papers), then taking two weeks may not be enough time!

Know Your Audience

The first step in writing a good legal document is to know your audience. Who are you trying to reach? What do they want?

Purpose: Why did the lawyer write this document? To win a case, negotiate a settlement, or draft an agreement for another purpose? 

If so, that should be stated at the beginning of the document. If it’s not clear why this particular piece of writing was created, there could be confusion or uncertainty about what actions are required next by those who read it (like opposing counsel).

Context: Where and when did you write this document? Did it occur before trial or during settlement negotiations? How much time has passed since then is it still relevant today? The context contributes greatly to conveying meaning because we all respond differently depending on our current situation. 

For example, if someone tries telling jokes while driving down an icy road with their spouse screaming at them for not watching where they’re going they might not get laughs from either party! 

Likewise, if someone writes something humorous when everyone else is tense about being sued for wrongful death it’ll probably come across as inappropriate rather than funny; even though technically both cases involve humor…

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Remember That Less Is More

When writing for your clients, remember that less is more. This is especially true when it comes to sentences and paragraphs. A sentence should be a complete thought; if you have to add a sentence or two just to finish your point, then that statement should probably be broken down into its paragraph.

Similarly, paragraphs should be short no longer than two or three sentences at most. The shorter they are, the easier they will be for readers to digest and understand quickly.

Finally, use simple words wherever possible instead of jargon or long technical terms (e.g., “utilize” instead of “use”). 

This will help ensure that your writing remains clear and understandable by all parties involved in the legal process, not just those who work with law-related materials daily

Keep Your Court Filings Short And Sweet 

Keep your court filings short and sweet. This is a good rule of thumb for legal writing in general, but it’s especially important when you’re filing court documents. 

If you don’t have a strong argument or case, then filing anything longer than five pages or so will probably not help your chances at all. 

You should also keep the sentences short; no one wants to read through a legal document that’s just one long run-on sentence! 

Another thing I’ll suggest is using shorter words not only will this make your language less dense, but it also makes reading easier on anyone who isn’t used to reading legal documents (like me). For example: “A defendant may be held liable if he/she was negligent in causing an accident” vs “A person can be found liable for an accident if they were negligent.

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Employ The Active Voice

The active voice is more direct, concise, engaging, and powerful. It’s also more professional and authoritative. The active voice makes for a straightforward sentence that’s easy to follow—and you want your readers to be able to follow what you’re saying.

Think about it: if we changed the verbs in these sentences from passive to active, they would be much easier on the eyes:

Passive: I was advised by my lawyer that the statute of limitations had expired on my case and should not pursue any legal action against my former employer.

Active: My lawyer advised me that the statute of limitations had expired on my case and should not pursue any legal action against my former employer.

Passive: Our client has allegedly been subjected to severe abuse at his workplace over many years by his boss.

However, he has been unable to prove this abuse because there are no witnesses or documentation available for review by an investigator or court system for an appropriate ruling could be made based upon those facts alone without any additional evidence presented aside from what little we currently have which consists mainly just statements from both parties.

Involved including each person’s own experiences with one another along with allegations made by third parties who may have witnessed some type of similar behavior occurring during their tenure working together.

Under these conditions where nothing specific came forward but rather hearsay comments made throughout conversations overheard between co-workers concerning situations involving other colleagues who happened

Don’t Use Contractions Or Informal Words Like “Very” And “Then”

Don’t use contractions. The words “don’t” and “isn’t” are contractions shortened versions of the phrases “do not” and “is not.” Contractions are informal, and they don’t belong in formal writing like legal documents. 

Also, they’re grammatically incorrect: the pronouns that replace nouns are capitalized (e.g., he/him/his) rather than being reduced to lowercase letters like most contractions (e.g., he goes).

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Instead, You Should Write Out All Words As Full Words: Do Not, Is Not

Make your writing feel personal, but don’t address anyone by name.

As you write, you’ll want to blend in a bit of personality. This is where the second person comes into play. By using this voice, you can speak directly to your reader and make them feel as if they’re a part of the conversation.

The first person is also helpful when writing legal documents because it allows you to talk about yourself (the writer) and convey information that might be relevant only to yourself, such as your knowledge base or personal experiences.

The third person refers not only to the lawyer but also other parties involved in the case such as witnesses or attorneys who are not represented by this particular firm but may have been involved with others in similar incidents at one point during their careers.”

Write Clearly And Concisely

Writing clearly and concisely is one of the most important things you can do as an attorney. When you write well, your clients will be able to understand what you mean, and judges will appreciate it when they read your briefs or opinions.

Here Are Some Tips On How To Improve The Clarity Of Your Writing

Use clear and concise language. Your words should be easy to understand even if they’re new or technical terms (unless you’re writing a legal opinion). For example, instead of using “justifiable homicide,” say “murder.”

Keep sentences short the shorter the better! This is especially true for paragraphs; try to keep them under five sentences long whenever possible. 

Longer paragraphs feel intimidating when someone reads them for the first time; this may make them feel like reading more might be too hard work rather than an enjoyable reading experience which helps us learn from each other over time

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As we’ve seen, the legal profession is not just about the law. It’s also about writing clearly and concisely so that your clients can understand what you’re saying and make informed decisions based on that information. 

When you write in a way that’s clear and easy to understand, it shows your professionalism as an attorney something that can set you apart from other lawyers who don’t put as much effort into their written communications.

Further Reading

If you’re looking to enhance your legal writing skills, consider exploring these additional resources:

Legal Writing Tips for Lawyers: Discover valuable insights and strategies to improve your legal writing prowess and effectively communicate your arguments.

10 Tips from Legal Writing Experts: Learn from the experts themselves with these ten practical tips to elevate your legal writing and make a lasting impact.

Legal Writing Tips and Resources: Access a collection of resources, tools, and tips to refine your legal writing skills and create compelling and persuasive legal documents.


How can I improve my legal writing skills?

Enhancing your legal writing skills involves practicing clear and concise expression, honing your argumentation, and seeking feedback from peers or mentors.

What are some common legal writing mistakes to avoid?

Common legal writing mistakes include excessive jargon, lack of clarity, improper citation, and failing to adhere to the prescribed format or style guide.

How do legal writing experts recommend structuring legal briefs?

Legal writing experts often suggest a clear structure: an introduction that previews the argument, followed by well-organized body paragraphs supported by evidence, and a conclusion that reinforces the main points.

Are there resources for legal writing guidelines and best practices?

Yes, various online platforms, law associations, and legal education websites offer guides, tips, and best practices to help you improve your legal writing skills.

What role does tone play in legal writing?

Tone is crucial in legal writing. Maintaining a professional and respectful tone is essential to convey your argument effectively and establish credibility with your audience.