Legal Drafting – Tips for Lawyers to Improve Documentation

Legal DraftingLegal drafting is a very structured method of writing. Legal professionals use these drafts for various documents. While litigators draft complaints and other pleadings, interrogatories, and jury instructions, business lawyers draft articles of incorporation, and contracts ranging from employment of individuals to security of goods and criminal lawyers have to draft plea agreements, appellate briefs, and writs of habeas corpus when representing their clients. Because of this, drafting skills are essential for every practicing lawyer. Along with legal transcription services, back office legal process outsourcing also involves legal drafting, analysis, and documentation that are necessary to meet any legal firm’s workflow.

With legal writing, it is critical to make sure that the documents you draft reflect

  • business dealings and client’s intentions
  • the agreement that the client has reached with the other party to the transaction
  • the relevant legal requirements for the transaction

It should also set out the respective rights and obligations of the parties. Some of the most important legal drafting skills include organizing the text to make it reader-friendly, maintaining clear and concise writing, avoiding grammatical and lexical errors and finally, editing and correcting the document in a systematic and thorough way.

Consider these tips to improve your legal drafts:

  • Understand the purpose and then plan the document – First, know what this letter is for – whether it is to advice, update, remind, encourage, exhort, justify, or complain. Based on this requirement, prepare a well-structured, logical, and legally effective draft covering all relevant issues.
  • Keep your audience in mind – Content in a document varies depending on the intended audience. Have a clear idea about your audience and their unique needs while crafting any piece of writing. For instance, if it is a memorandum to a client, it must analyze the issues, report the state of the law and recommend an appropriate course of action.
  • Legal DraftingAvoid unnecessary words – Don’t use extra jargon and phrases like “aforementioned”, and “we advise that” that are of no benefit to the writing. Instead, keep your drafts simple using clear, understandable, consistent language. Each word you use should contribute to your message.
  • Use concrete words – Use action words that make your legal prose powerful and dynamic. For instance, instead of “The judge was very angry”, you can draft it as “The judge was enraged”. In the same way try using active voice than passive one. While passive voice eliminates the subject, active voice tells the reader who is doing the action and clarifies your message.
  • Edit to make it perfect – Often lawyers ignore this crucial step, which can avoid costly and time-consuming consequences in the future. Careful proofreading is important in legal writing. Check for spelling, punctuation or grammatical errors in a document submitted to the court, and rewrite words if needed.

Those new to legal writing can rely on a legal dictionary or legal writing manuals provided by scholars to help writers know where to begin and how to polish their work. Form books are also an excellent way to get started with the legal drafting process. These books range in both size and scope-they can be a single paperback volume that contains a few general legal forms, or a large multi-volume set with a separate index volume. The Law Library has several form books that focus on federal law and practice.

About Julie Clements

Julie Clements

Joined the MOS team in March of 2008. Julie Clements has background in the healthcare staffing arena; as well as 6 years as Director of Sales and Marketing at a 4 star resort. Julie was instrumental in the creation of the medical record review division (and new web site); and has especially grown this division along with data conversion of all kinds.