Practice makes perfect and legal writing is one area where this adage has an especially significant meaning. Unlike standard business communication, legal writing is used to present a balanced analysis of an issue and convince others about its validity. Legal transcription services help lawyers convert audio/video recordings of various proceedings into text format. There are different types of legal documents such as pleadings, correspondence, motions, legal memorandums, interrogations, agreements and discovery. When producing documents for presentation in court or convey information to clients, legal professionals must conform to a standard format, while ensuring error-free content. Today, there are a wide range of digital writing tools that help them do just that.
Software Tools to Ease and Improve Legal Writing
- Grammarly: Grammarly is a powerful, free online and web-based grammar checker that can improve writing of everything from general emails and demand letters to memorandums, writs of supersedeas, and more. This app offers proofreading suggestions and checks spelling, punctuation, style, and readability. As the tool has browser extension capabilities for Chrome, Safari, and Firefox, its services are available when you’re using Twitter, Facebook, Gmail, and other platforms. In addition to grammar resources, this tool comes with a dictionary and thesaurus resources and plagiarism checker. When you paste your content into the app’s document, it will help you set your goals based on audience, formality, domain, tone, and intent. The tool will make suggestions and you can accept those you agree with. Grammarly also offers a paid option to have critical documents reviewed by a live, human proofreader.
- BriefCatch: BriefCatch is a robust, easy-to-use legal editing tool that can detect common mistakes and identify advocacy opportunities. This Microsoft Word Add-in option offers editing suggestions that can be done in real time. It can correct legal typos and clean up citations. Other capabilities include formatting citations, expert advice, and frequent upgrades. It uses the latest in natural language processing, machine learning, and artificial intelligence and mines data from top-notch legal documents and opinions to fine-tune its editing rules and create BriefCatch scores. BriefCatch allows you to gain insights into your writing strengths and wording patterns.
- Google Docs: Google Docs is a free online word processing software that allows teams to collaborate simultaneously on documents in real-time from any location. Google Docs saves your work automatically and stores them securely in the cloud. Though this tool is not specifically designed for legal professionals, you can enhance it usability by combining it with Grammarly.
- PerfectIT: This mass-market tool works best when paired with American Legal Style It is designed for lawyers, by lawyers. It can scan your writing and easily detect legal mistakes. PerfectIT includes 13,000 legal-specific checks and only lawyers and trained legal editors would know to look for. By leveraging top guidance on legal writing, it allows legal professionals to quickly apply the rules, style, guidelines, and writing techniques to create clear, uncomplicated, and consistent legal documents. PerfectIT and American Legal Style simplify the editing and proofreading process and save lawyers’ valuable time.
- Scrivner: This tool is a great option for writing briefs as well as for legal research. A lengthy article, judicial opinion, or brief you are planning to review can be broken down into its constituent sections and reviewed on the screen. This tool allows lawyers to organize and create complex documents. It uses a”tree-based approach” that simplifies navigation. It enables the reader to manage the presentation and flow of information, making it easier to absorb and process. This navigation feature allows you to present the information visually, making it a great option for visual learners. Scrivner comes with several annotation tools such as project notes, document notes, comments, footnotes, and labels that allow you to revisit the text later and find important information.
- Hemingway Editor: This app uses color-coded highlighters to alert users about: sentences in the passive voice, needlessly long or complex words, complex sentences, and sentences that are”very” hard to read. It assigns a grade based on readability. The app’s website states that it aims make your writing”bold and clear.” Hemingway Editor has both a paid and a free version.
- Microsoft Word’s Readability Statistics: Several factors impact clarity of a document: average sentence length, the extent of passive-voice usage, overall readability, and reading grade level. Word’s readability statistics evaluate all of these factors. The words-per-sentence calculation is especially helpful for lawyers who are advised to keep sentence length as short as possible (20 words or fewer). Likewise, as lawyers are advised to stick to the active voice, the percentage-of-passive-sentences calculation is also very pertinent.
- Cliché Finder: With Cliché Finder, you can check your writing for words, phrases, and expressions that trite, stale, or overused. Just cut and paste your text into the tool and it will highlight clichés so that you can replace them with more precise content.
When you’re trying to convey information to judges, other lawyers, and clients, you need to ensure clear and concise content that leave little room for doubt, questions, and confusion.
Here are some tips to improve your basic writing skills:
- Focus on your purpose
- Create content to target your audience
- Do your research well
- Pay attention to document structure
- Ensure clarity
- Minimize use of jargon
- Edit and proofread
- Rely on feedback and constructive criticism
Whether it’s inter-office memoranda and letters to clients, creating documents for presentation to a court or administrative agency on behalf of a client, or drafting legal documents such as contracts and wills, there are legal writing tools out there that can help improve your writing. When it comes to creating typed versions of recorded audio and video content, choose a competent legal transcription service.