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Legalese Words Lawyers Need to Stop Using

By George Khoury, Esq. | Last updated on

When we lawyers draft a pleading, words like herewith, therewith, forwith, whichwith, and other seemingly required, yet almost nonsensical, phrases materialize effortlessly. Whether they get used to draw attention to our list of demands, or to transition to a conclusion for a dense section of poorly stated facts, the aforementioneds, hereinafters, wherefores, comenows, and legalese nonsense, all need to go.

Many attorneys were taught that certain words and phrases, and even Latin ones, were required parts of pleading. The attorneys that questioned the use of legalese were told not to question it and just do it the way it has always been done before. However, the tide seems to be changing as the classic plain language movement continues to gain followers amongst lawyers and judges.

When lawyers speak and write outside of court pleading, there are no "whereases" uttered. We just don't use conjunctions like that in regular speech unless we're making fun of how other lawyers write. For the most part, when it comes to plain language writing, if it wasn't in the Conjunction Junction video, you should ask yourself: Is it really a necessary conjunction? The answer is probably no.

When it comes to the use of the word "whereas," or its just as frequently seen fraternal twin "WHEREAS," some legal writing experts say we lawyers need to just drop this useless conjunction, particularly when used to start a sentence.

Thou SHALL Not Use Shall

One rather controversial term that lawyers should avoid using unless they are quoting a statute, contract term, or court opinion, using the term and fighting over its meaning, is: Shall. According to one expert, it's best to just avoid the use of "shall" altogether.

Think Before, and After, You Write

When you're drafting a pleading, consider your audience. Judges, juries, clients, journalists, the public, and even adversaries, all appreciate clear, easy to understand, writing. If you're filing a complaint, using the simplest language to get your message across is generally the most effective and persuasive way to prove your point, and can even help you score points in the court of public opinion.

While showing off your vocabulary can often be the most concise way to phrase something, if your big, fancy, or non-English, words and phrases make your argument inaccessible to a particular audience, it's bad writing. Proofreading and editing out the legalese, and other inaccessible language, in favor of plain language is a simple way to reduce the risk of confusing a reader.

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