Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Turning legalese into plain English?

A commenter writes--
  • Plain English legal documents should be the goal of every attorney, every legislature. Lawyers often argue for obtuse language on the basis that judges accept it as settled law, regardless of how hard it is to understand for the average Joe.

    Do you know of any person or entity that specializes in turning legalese into plain English language that can stand up in court?
Yes, as a matter of fact, I do.

Me. It's actually sort of a specialty of mine.(Self promotion follows.)

I am currently the plain-English drafting consultant to a state bar task force that is trying to improve our jury instructions by converting to plain English. I have worked as a plain-English consultant for the local cable-access center; I redrafted their rules and procedures into plain English. And I have handled a number of other smaller matters.

But the biggest project I have worked on was a for a large home builder with multi-state operations. I redrafted several documents for the company, including a deed of trust, promissory note, arbitration agreement, and other contract exhibits. The lawyers there said they were happy with the plain-English documents.

And as for the "stand up in court" part, I rely on two things: (1) the substantive expertise of the person or group that hired me, and (2) my own research and experience with plain English that stands up in court.

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