Drafting legal text

Subject: Drafting legal text
From: Eric Rhinerson <Eric -dot- Rhinerson -at- bankerssystems -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 6 Apr 2001 11:32:10 -0500

Actually, it isn't an impossible mission. It is entirely feasible for a
non-attorney to draft legal documents. I know several tech writers who have
worked in quasi-legal-technical arenas for years. Much of the preliminary
drafting can be done without having JD behind the writer's name.
However, whatever documents have been drafted by the tech writer are only
the first incarnation and must still be reviewed/approved by an attorney.
Granted, the ability to even do the initial draft requires a specific skill
At the other end of the process, I edit a substantial amount of text that
was drafted by attorneys for readability. Many lawyers will be the first to
admit that they are not professional writers. but you can be certain that
any change I make is approved by an attorney before it hits an end user.
Another substantial difference in attorney dealings develops when dealing
with on-staff counsel (who probably don't need to address "billable" hours)
and hired guns.
As in any profession, there will be lawyers who inflate their hours as well
as there are Tech writers who inflate their hours and estimates.

The most important thing to remember is that if what you are writing has
legal implications (of any nature), a lawyer needs to give the final stamp
of approval.

> Anon,
> Your managers are out to lunch if they think they can
> mostly-exclude the lawyers by having you do the bulk
> of the grunt-work.
> Lawyers are peculiar animals that come in many forms,
> but certain traits are almost universal among 'em.
> First, no lawyer will EVER review a "legal" document
> and NOT spend considerable (i.e., billable) time marking
> it up with changes. For the most part, those changes
> have no legal value -- which you can confirm by sending
> the altered doc to different lawyers, who will proceed
> to either alter it back to original form, or mark it
> up with entirely different changes (changes that the first
> lawyer would contest...).
> The lawyer ego does not permit a document to go past
> without written (billable, of course) niggling. I know
> of only two exceptions, and both those guys are
> skydivers, by strange coinkydink.
> Second, by nature, a lawyer cannot permit simple, clear
> language anywhere that it is possible to insert arcane,
> convoluted, rambling... er, where was I?
> At one time, my wife did English-French/French-English
> translation. On more than one occasion (until she thoroughly
> learned her lesson) she encountered lawyers with abysmal
> writing skill in one or both languages, who would brook
> no alteration to their deathless (but crying out for
> euthanasia, nontheless) prose. She still has, somewhere
> in her old files, the really vile, abusive, fulminating
> letter-of-harrumph that one lawyer sent after she had
> corrected his own "English" translation (from his own,
> original bad French) text, then he had re-instated ALL of
> > his original errors, and then she had corrected them again
> (with explanatory side-notes to the customer and owner
> of the larger documents).
> I believe the customer eventually chose to recognize that
> the lawyer's middle name was "bumpf" and that as long as
> the legal meaning of the sticky parts was retained, it was
> important for both comprehension and company image that the
> text be in proper English. I also believe that this development
> came about only due to a shift in management (the lawyer's
> crony got the boot) at the customer company.
> >
> Nevertheless, the lawyer billed for every turn-around AND
> for the nasty letter to the translator (he CC:d Marie on
> the billing, just so she'd know he was screwing her client
> for his cost of his own exercise in ego and pettiness).
> So, based on experience, it sounds to me as if your employers
> may be living in a fool's paradise. My point is that they
> might as well save part of the cost... the part where you do
> any of the writing <grin>



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