Writing is an essential part of legal procedures. The documents and drafts you create play a considerable role in making your cases more potent and coherent. The better your writing is, the better your career will be.
Although perfecting your legal drafting skills takes time and hard work, you can always use a range of tips to improve your legal documentation skills.
If you are wondering how to write legal documents that can impress everyone, keep reading to find out how to master legal writing.
What are legal writing skills, and why do you need them?
Legal writing skills are important for any legal professional, as they need to create a gamut of legal documents, lawyer papers, and drafts as part of their jobs.
Some of these documents include the following:
- Court filings
- Client emails
- Business Policies
- Service agreements
All these documents are valid in front of the law, and they must have certain qualities. They are flawless, clear, and insightful. The documents must also comply with certain styles, conventions, and grammar rules and have certain semantic features.
As a result, not everyone can create legal documents and write-ups. However, as an attorney or a lawyer, you need to master legal writing as you may need to interpret court rulings, laws, contracts, etc.
Hence, it is vital that you not only know how to write a legal document but also have the skills to interpret them.
How to master the skill of legal writing
There are several ways to bolster your legal writing skills for drafting legal documents that are impressive and insightful.
Some of the methods to master and improve your legal document drafting skills are:
Attend legal writing training or classes
If you are a beginner in the arena, the best way to start improving your legal writing skills is to attend classes and training. They can be a great way to form a sturdy foundation that you can expand later.
You don’t need to attend physical classes or training for this. There are several online courses and training you can attend.
However, before you attend a class, research it to understand if it can bring you value. Read through feedback and, if possible, speak to a few attendees.
Read legal documents and literature
Another easy way to enhance your skills as a document lawyer is to get yourself familiar with legal documents of all kinds. You can read legal documents and literature to do this.
While it may be challenging at first, once you get into the groove of it, you will pick up space.
While referring to legal writing examples, pay attention to the style of writing, sentence formation, and how ideas are presented. More than the content of the document, your attention must fall on how the document is drafted.
Make notes and refer to them when you are writing a document yourself.
Ask for feedback from your mentors/seniors
Another easy way to improve your document drafting skills is to ask for feedback from your mentors or seniors. When you are asked to create a legal document, make the best one you can and ask the mentors to review it.
You can ask them to specifically point out the portions that require improvements in the document. This will help you understand what you need to rework on and what you are good at.
Consciously implement the feedback in your next writing project so that the lawyer document draft gets better.
Practice legal writing as much as you can
As with every other skill, you can improve your legal writing skills by practicing as much as you can.
Therefore, when you are given a legal writing project, for example, a letter, take it up. Stop worrying about how to write a legal letter and start working on it. You can refer to similar letters from the past to learn what you need to do.
Once you have done writing, ask for feedback and implement it to improve the letter. The more you involve yourself in legal writing, the quicker you become better at it.
Legal writing tips: How to improve your legal writing
Are mastering the skills enough to draft legal documents? No, you need to develop a system and discipline before, during, and after drafting documents to ensure that they stand out from the rest.
The following tips will help you understand how to make legal documents better when writing them:
Phase #1: Before writing
This is the first stage of your writing. No matter what you are writing, in this stage, you lay the foundation for your writing. If you don’t do a great job at this stage, everything that comes later may end up being mediocre and bland at best.
Avoid the pitfall with the help of the following:
Know your audience and write for them
The first thing you need to learn about legal writing is the audience you are writing for. You need to consider who will read the document.
Another lawyer? A judge? Or a client?
The experiences and levels of understanding of each of these persons are different. Hence, their understanding of what you write also changes.
Therefore, your duty is to know the audience and create the document in such a way that they understand it well.
Conduct adequate research
Conducting research is another important aspect of writing a legal document, no matter what it is. You may need to refer to a range of sources and literature to gather enough material to help you write.
This also may be the most challenging part of legal writing.
However, just like legal writing software to help, there are legal research tools that you can use to expedite and streamline your legal research.
Create outlines before you start
Now that you know who you are writing for and have the material with you to create the document, you need to create an outline for the document.
The outline has to be prepared before you start writing the document.
The advantages of an outline are many:
- It gives an idea of the flow of the document
- It helps you organize your ideas
- You understand how to connect one section to the next
- You eliminate similar ideas
Phase #2: During the writing
Once you have done the research, this is where you start drafting the legal document. Following the tips here makes your writing better and easier to understand.
Use shorter, crisper sentences
The chief purpose of legal writing is to help the audience understand something, like any other writing. It could be a will, an agreement, or a resolution. Writing sentences that go on forever makes it hard for the audience to keep up with them.
Make an effort to make the sentences shorter consciously and it will become a part of your writing with practice.
They are easy to understand and reader-friendly, helping you meet the purpose of legal writing.
Refrain from using legal jargon
Many legal documents are hard to understand as they use legal jargon extensively. Using jargon makes the document even more complex and hard to understand.
When you write a legal document, ensure that you do not use jargon unnecessarily.
However, when writing a legal document, you may be unable to get rid of all instances of jargon, but keeping a check is advised.
Resort to always writing concisely
As legal writing is not fiction, using descriptive language is not the best way to write a legal document. The idea is to make the writing as concise as needed so everyone can understand it.
Writing superfluously long documents is time-consuming for both the writers and the readers. And no value can be derived from it.
Punctuate your sentences well
Another important element to remember is to use punctuation clearly in the document. Punctuation marks are used to ensure clarity in writing.
Using punctuation makes it easier for the audience to understand the document with clarity.
If you are unsure how to use punctuation, there are several resources online to help you. Some of the legal writing software solutions can also help with it.
Create multiple drafts before finalizing
Another tip for better legal writing is to make as many drafts as possible. Each draft needs to be better than the previous one.
And you need to make multiple drafts to ensure the final one you have is the best.
Phase #3: After writing
This is the last stage of your legal writing task. Everything you do in this stage makes a legal document go from good to great.
Always remember to use the following tips:
Stick to legal fonts and other standards
You need to stick to preferred legal fonts and industry standards when writing legal documents. You can always research to understand the conventions if you are unfamiliar with them.
Format your write-up well
After writing the document, always format your document well. A great format improves the readability of the document.
Using headings, subheadings, and bullet points to share your ideas can make legal writing, or any other writing for that matter, look very reader-friendly.
Therefore, always format the legal document well.
Never forget to proofread your draft
This is the most critical part of the last stage. Proofread and edit your work as many times as possible.
Don’t just look for spelling and punctuation errors in your document when proofreading and editing.
It has more to do with making your writing better. Hence, check if you can make the sentences better.
Analyze if the paragraph flows well. Make it better if it wasn’t already.
Check if the facts mentioned are accurate.
All these minor things can make a world of difference in your document and your writing more impactful.
Have someone else review your work
No matter how thoroughly you edit your work, your eyes may skip a few errors or areas that need improvement.
Requesting someone else to review and proofread it is a great way to improve your document. The only caveat is that you must rely on somebody who knows what they are given.
How another person interprets what you write is profoundly different from what you may understand and interpret.
Hence, a second opinion can make your writing even better.
Credit your references
Another important part of legal writing is to credit the references you use. You may use a particular citation style when using a reference.
Try to understand what the preferred citation style is and stick to it throughout the document.
Using references makes your document read authentic and well-researched and increases your credibility among your readers.
Use technologies to edit your work
There are several editing and proofreading tools that you can use to make your editing process faster and more streamlined. You can use this with your legal writing software to make edits as you write the document.
However, blindly relying on tools can be a doom instead of a boon for you as the suggestions may not always be correct in your context.
While these tools can greatly help with editing, do not let these tools take control. Use them sparingly and review the changes before implementing them.
Legal writing is more than putting words for others to read. Everything has to make sense and add value to the audience. Therefore, when creating a legal document, prepare yourself for it. Half of writing is researching and finding suitable sources. In legal writing, the quality of research also determines the impact it will have on your readers.
While these tips are great to start, you can improvise your learning and writing processes to make the writing even better. Ask around for feedback and look for constructive criticism to improve your skills.
Tech-savvy law firms have also begun using legal document preparation software solutions and document automation software for lawyers to write better documents effortlessly. Combining your legal writing skills with the capabilities of these legal document software programs can significantly impact the quality of the documents you create.