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The Criticality of Legal Writing in Law Amidst COVID-19

legal writing

Dr. Sukhvinder Singh Dari, Director, Symbiosis Law School, Nagpur

The entire legal education scenario in India has been witnessing a radical shift in its functioning due to the current crisis. The changing pedagogy of the industry and its shift towards digitisation due to the pandemic has led to an emergence of highly versatile skill set demands. However, despite this technological shift, the one skill set that remains unchanged is the art of legal writing.

Drafting and writing is one of the most intellectually demanding skills for anyone who belongs to a legal background. A well drafted document is equal to a strong argument that is very much capable of making or breaking  a case. Legal drafting and legal writing skills begin with having a strong command over the language and go a long way in terms of connecting words flawlessly and error free. However, in order to connect these words one must possess thorough knowledge of law, along with the ability to deal with abstract concepts, investigative instincts and an exceptionally well prescience.

Legal writing involves dealing with documents in various forms like analysis of facts, patterns and presentation of arguments in documents like memorandums and briefs, drafts of balanced analysis pertaining to legal issues, legal instruments such as contracts, wills etc. These legal documents serve two major purposes, informing and engaging the client and the court about the legal issue. This makes it essential for every lawyer as well as judge/jury to draft all legal documents with precision that can be stated in layman’s terms.

Let us now understand some of the common rules that can be implemented for effective legal writing:

 

Fact Based

Preparing a chronological story stating all the facts is the core foundation of a legal writeup. A chronological arrangement of facts helps the writer in analysing if they have missed out on any information. This further supports in preparing a persuasive case wherein all the loopholes can be assessed carefully and arguments can be modified in order to cover all the grey areas in the matter.

 

Grammar and Spell checks

 Keeping up with the basic rules of grammar like proper use of tenses, verbs, proper arrangement of words are extremely crucial for extracting the true essence of a write up. Any ignorance of basic rules may change the entire meaning of the statement. Another aspect of good grammar is the usage of ordinary words and simple sentences. Simple and uncomplicated words help the reader comprehend the content efficiently and also enhances the quality of the writing.

If the readers are forced to slow down due to confused or unclear writing, it affects the credibility of the article. 

Keep it concise

As much as it’s necessary for a document to be concise, the reader must also take care that the message brevity does not get hampered. Keeping the write up crisp by avoiding a clutter of unnecessary words and keeping it concise is a sign of an efficient writer. True efficiency can be measured when one can use six words to communicate a message instead of ten without any message discrepancy.

Professor William Strunk in 1929 defined concise as vigorous writing. He said, a sentence should not contain unnecessary words, a paragraph should not contain unnecessary sentences for the same reason a drawing should not contain unnecessary lines.

 

Follow ‘One Read Rule’

One of the greatest achievements for a writer is when the reader is able to read and comprehend the information in the first go. Hence, keeping in mind the reader’s perspective along with the writer’s perspective is equally important. If the readers are forced to slow down due to confused or unclear writing, it affects the credibility of the article. Hence, inculcation of the reader’s perspective should also be taken into consideration while drafting a write up.

A well drafted document is equal to a strong argument that is very much capable of making or breaking  a case

A focus on mastering the art of legal writing will not only help boost one’s soft skills but also enhance one’s  hard skills. Although it takes immense amount of practice, once you get a hang of it, the skill will not only benefit your legal career but also give you an upper hand in expressing your ideas and thoughts in personal life.

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