Technical writing in the legal field?

Subject: Technical writing in the legal field?
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Sun, 28 Aug 2005 09:45:13 -0400

Lisa Wright wondered: <<Is there anyone on the list who works in the legal arena? I met a young woman today who is thinking about writing as a profession, is interested in law, and is wondering what sort of preparation that might involve and what the work is like.>>

I don't get involved in anything related to law if I can avoid it. Apart from the fact I don't know the jargon, lawyers use English in ways God never intended, and I'm constantly enraged by the density and incomprehensibility of legal prose. The few times I've helped write contracts or other legalistic stuff, I've found my efforts greatly appreciated by the lawyer who was involved, even when they had to rewrite the text to use correct jargon. Apparently, even lawyers can recognize clarity when they see it. <g>

Several colleagues who dwell in copyediting-l* ( work as legal editors. At various times in the past, during various discussions, they have confirmed my longstanding suspicion that the claim of the legal profession to write rigorous, logical, unmistakably clear text is a crock of animal waste. The legal profession, as is the case with any other group of professionals who are not primarily writers, includes a large number of individuals who write so badly that they should have their word processors confiscated. <g>

* That's "L as in list", not 'ell as in the place bad editors go after they die. <g>

A tad less facetiously, it's also true that very few writers, even professionals like us, write well enough that they would not benefit from the skills of a good editor. I regularly learn something new about my own writing from being edited, and am a much stronger writer as a result. Why should lawyers be any different from those of us who earn our living writing? Like any other SME, legal professionals often need writing help.

That being the case, it seems that editorial jobs in a large law office are somewhat common, and your colleague should join copyediting-l and ask the question there to obtain more pointed advice.

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Geoff Hart ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca
(try geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com if you don't get a reply)
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Technical writing in the legal field: From: Lisa Wright

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