3-minute read, 10–minute exercise
One of the keys to great legal drafting is to draft for your audience. Let’s say, for example, that your audience is your client and your client is in 2019. That’s just a wild guess. Let’s call your client Jo.
Please draft with plain English so Jo can understand the document that she’s paying you to draft for her
There shouldn’t be any words or phrases that Jo can’t understand unless there is an imperative legal reason to include them. Including a specific legal term used in case law? Yes. Using a Latin phrase from ancient Rome? No.
Have a look at the documents that you are currently working on. Do you understand all the words? If you do, you probably have great documents so well done! If you don’t, the chances are that Jo doesn’t either. We know that you probably didn’t draft the original wording. But if you have the opportunity to change the drafting for the better, take it!
Please draft effectively hereunder, forthwith!
Be honest, when was the last time you needed to look up some choice words to check what they mean? They’re usually words you skip over and guess the meaning from the surrounding context, and yet we see them in legal documents everywhere. Why?
‘Recitals’ – This makes you think that maybe you’ll have the pleasure of listening to a wonderful musical performance if only you can read through the whole document. If you’d like to include a background of events, names or facts, perhaps title the section ‘Background’.
‘Operative Part’ – The chances are that these are the terms that the parties agreed to. Try using a better descriptive title such as ‘Agreed Terms’.
‘Hereunder’ – You probably mean the terms included in this agreement. Let’s say ‘the terms included in this agreement’.
‘Whereupon’ – If you’re talking about what will happen immediately after the first event happens, try the modern word ‘consequently’.
‘Shall’ – Do you mean ‘will’, ‘may’, ‘must’ or something else? Please be clear with what you mean.
Party A and Party B – We know who Party A and Party B are because our eyes have been trained over the years to dart around complex documents in search of meaning and context. Jo doesn’t necessarily have that skill. By the time she has struggled through to the 10th page, poor Jo will probably be having trouble working out that ‘Party A shall henceforth negotiate a resolution of the dispute in good faith with Party B’ means that she needs to try then to negotiate a dispute with Bob. Just call the parties by names that are familiar to the parties.
‘This agreement is executed by’ – If Jo searches Google of the word ‘executed’ to see what it means; she’ll see that the entire first page of the results is all about capital punishment. It’s probably not the vibe you’d like to go for when you are referring to Jo signing the document. Try ‘This agreement is signed by’.
You get the point.
Spend 10-minutes now to improve the effectiveness of your documents
Find your calendar and schedule in an appointment today for just 10-minutes. You are going to start making simple changes to improve the effectiveness of your documents. During that appointment, go to one of the documents you are currently working on. Go through the document and highlight all of the old words and phrases that make you cringe or go “huh?”. Now go through and replace them with plain English. Simple.
Your documents don’t have to be perfect now, but if you’d like to gain a reputation for drafting well, you do need to commit to making small improvements whenever you can. Over time, these small improvements will add up.
We have a range of automated legal documents that can be highly customised and that are available for you to use in your practice now. Sign up to receive emails from us to receive access to these documents. Just pay for what you need. We’ll then send you information to support you and your clients.