Lose the legalese please


Many lawyers overlook the usefulness of effective writing, says Richa Kachhwaha

The nuances of legal writing have been on my mind ever since I started working in legal publishing. My experience has been that lawyers in India rarely read or consult resources on the art of legal writing. In corporate hubs, lawyers don’t feel the need to work on their writing skills. They consider their writing to be “good enough”, so they think, “why spend time learning it?” But in reality, from a writing perspective, even good lawyers can be incoherent, and their writing can come across as a bag of random advice.

The Latin proverb, verba volant, scripta manent, (spoken words fly away, written words remain), is best applicable to the legal profession. A substantial part of what lawyers do, in litigation practice or transactional work, or an in-house role, is ultimately persuasion through writing. A well written document is naturally more persuasive than a poorly written one.

Richa Kachhwaha

Ideally, vital and related skills like legal writing, research and analysis must be taught on a consistent basis in our law schools. The increased practical exposure through internships, mooting and legal clinics in the Indian legal education landscape is laudable. Writing skills (and to a great extent analytical skills), however, remain neglected. Persuasive writing in particular is still not emphasized in law schools in India. Oddly enough, the courses on legal drafting (and conveyancing) do not devote time to the mechanics of writing.

Although there is an overlap between a document that is well written and one that is effective, the two are not always co-extensive. Some well written documents may not achieve a lawyer’s objective or purpose. Besides, what is well written from a lawyer’s perspective may not be well written from the perspective of a business manager or an in-house counsel.

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Richa Kachhwaha is the author of The Art of Legal Writing: Practicing Lawyers to Successful Professionals (Oakbridge Publishing). She is the former managing editor of Live Law and a qualified solicitor of the Supreme Court of England and Wales.