When writing a letter to the opposing side or your client, the most important goal is to be clear and understood. You can’t be effective in making your point if your writing style obscures your message.
The following is a guest blog post by Anderson Franco, who practices landlord-tenant, personal injury, and general litigation throughout the Bay Area.
Before filing a lawsuit, a plaintiff should always consider whether to try for settlement. If settlement is the goal, then a settlement demand letter becomes a key negotiation tool. A settlement demand letter explains to the opposing party why they should pay money to settle the case immediately rather than litigating through the court system.
Parties often need to include conditions to the performance obligations of one or both parties in a contract. Common examples include conditions requiring that one party give consent before the other party’s rights may be exercised (e.g., “Tenant may not assign the lease without Landlord’s consent”) or that one party be “satisfied” with a product or performance before payment or other action is due (e.g., “Publisher will market Author’s text if Publisher is satisfied with its content”). But contract drafters should be wary—these conditions can be a source of much litigation.
Any document you draft—from an email to a settlement agreement—should be written in plain, understandable language. But many attorneys still fall into the trap of using stilted, legalistic language, particularly in contracts and other transactional documents. Compare the following purchase agreement recitals and see what a difference plain English makes.
A contract is a form of communication that a diverse audience will read and use. Attorneys who focus strictly on the legal terms and not on their word usage may find that style got in the way of substance. Don’t let that happen to you—review and apply these five writing tips whenever you draft a contact of any kind.
Whatever document you’re drafting—from a memorandum for a partner to a brief for the court—using clear and concise headings and subheadings will take your reader by the hand and lead them smoothly through your document. Here’s some advice from noted appellate attorneys Daniel U. Smith and Valerie T. McGinty on making your headings as useful and effective as possible.