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What Fonts Are Acceptable for Legal Documents?

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on January 17, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

When it comes to assembling legal documents, does font matter?

Yes! Quite simply, fonts influence how your writing appears and is perceived. There's the elegant (and ink-efficient) Garamond, the matter-of-fact Lucida Sans Typewriter, the "I might as well have just written this in crayon" Comic Sans. Beyond that, some courts have a short list of acceptable fonts, from which practitioners can't deviate. So, if you're looking for the best fonts for your legal docs, here are some suggestions.

Court-Approved and Court-Used Fonts

We were reminded of the importance of fonts when the Virginia Supreme Court updated its list of acceptable fonts last month. Now, in addition to Arial, Courier, or Verdana, lawyers practicing before Virginia's highest court will be allowed to submit documents in Cambria, Century, Century School Book, Constantia, Franklin Gothic Book, Georgia, Palatino Linotype, Tahoma, and Times New Roman as well.

If you're looking for a list of satisfactory typefaces, that's plenty. Arial, Tahoma, and Verdana have you covered for the basic, bold, and blocky fonts, while Palatino and Century have a smooth, sophisticated serif to them.

You can even get away with Times New Roman if you're on an old version of Word and unwilling to change the default font. (Word has switched its default font to Calibri in recent versions -- a font that's noticeably missing from Virginia's list.)

You can also look to fonts that other courts use themselves. The Supreme Court goes with Century Schoolbook for its opinions, Lucida Sans Typewriter for its daily orders. The Supreme Court of Arkansas likes Garamond, and the First and Fourth Circuit use Courier. (The Seventh Circuit has a seven-page guide to typography for those wanting to take a deeper dive.)

And Then There Are the Lawyers

Alternatively, you could look to fellow lawyers as a guide. After the Virginia switch up, the ABA Journal asked its readers to weigh in on their favorite legal fonts. There were plenty of Century Schoolbook fans (what lawyer doesn't want to feel like a Supreme Court justice when they type, after all?), as well as Cambria, Garamond, and Times New Roman users.

As one commenter noted, "if judges and other court officers must accept hand written pleadings, then fonts should not matter too much." The commenter was an Arial user.

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