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.
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.
Almost all motions and demurrers must be supported by a memorandum. Cal Rules of Ct 3.1113. Your supporting memorandum convinces the judge that the law and facts support the order you want. The objective is to persuade—the memo may be your main shot at doing so, as judges issue a tentative ruling or come to the hearing with a ruling in mind based on the motion and response papers.
A contract shouldn’t require a Latin-English dictionary to understand it! In fact, there’s generally no reason to use Latin terms or formal legal language (legalese) at all. Use plain English to be sure the contracts and other documents you’re writing are in a language that the parties can read and understand. Here’s a chart to keep handy next time you’re drafting a legal document (or to discreetly slip to a legalese-laden colleague).