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The legal profession swears by the maxim, “verba volant, scripta manent” which means spoken words fly away, written words remain!
Drafting and legal writing skills aren’t pivotal for a law student, lawyer or judge. Did you notice the mistake in that sentence? Even the smallest mistake can change the entire meaning of a sentence - an error in a legal document can cost a client his case!
Haggard has said that “Drafting is one of the most intellectually demanding of all lawyering skills. It requires a knowledge of the law, the ability to deal with abstract concepts, investigative instincts, an extraordinary degree of prescience, and organizational skills.”
Legal drafting skills begin with having a strong command over the language. A lawyer must connect his words like pearls in a string! Legal documents that are flawless and error-free, win half the case for a lawyer.A well-drafted document is equivalent to a strong argument and can make or break a case! A legal document, whether it is a contract, written statement or an affidavit, serves two purposes- informing and engaging both the client and the court about the legal issue. It becomes essential for lawyers and judges to draft all legal documents with precision, to clearly depict all essential facts as well as engage a layman to its content.
Legal drafting is the most important instrument of legal communication. The skill to draft well is the skill to think and communicate well. Therefore, it is important to recognise the purpose that a legal document has to serve. A legal document must be drafted in a way that it categorically specifies the legal issue, statements of the client and the remedies sought if any.
A lawyer equipped with legal drafting skills is able to identify his target audience who is going to read the document. The content of a legal document must be understood by the audience who is reading it. For instance, a legal notice sent to the other party must not be full of legal jargons that the other party is disabled from understanding the legal issue and remedies sought from him.
Legal drafting skills are also important as they ensure that the legal document is structured properly. An unstructured document without balance lacks effectiveness. Overusing negative statements or an aggressive tone can make a document seem confrontational. A document free of such failures and errors is considered most authentic and effective.
Legal drafting skills also embody refraining from using legalese i.e. complicated legal phrases and jargon that is beyond the comprehension of a layman. The meaning and purpose of a legal document must be clear and simple. A legal document burdened with unnecessarily complicated terms loses its essence as its purpose becomes unclear.
Legal drafting must be concise. It does not mean that the crux and requisite statements are to be left out. A succinctly drafted document clearly expresses its purpose and applicability. Technical terms, on one hand, may assist to maintain the fidelity of a document, may not appeal or intrigue the mass audience. A complicated document with heavy with legal jargons would go over the head of a client.
Legal drafting skills also include the art of drafting authentic documents rather than using template format for every contract or notice drafted. It is important that every document drafted by a lawyer is free of plagiarism or unverified, unauthentic content. Each statement made must be supported by a case law, precedent or statute.
This makes conducting legal research before drafting a document, one of the skills required to draft pristine documents. Legal research is essential to construct a background and basis structure of a legal document and enables the court to relate to its content effortlessly.
Legal drafting skills also encompass using feedback from the court and clients to improve on the points where the legal document lacks. It is important to understand whether the client is consumed with doubts after reading the document, or is able to understand even the most complicated legal procedures and technicalities through his legal document.
Drafting skills embrace not only the ability to produce crisp documents but also to acquaint a layman with the intention of the legal document. A lawyer who possesses these legal drafting skills is able to build a strong legal practice in whichever legal domain he practices.
Along with having legal drafting skills, it is important for a lawyer to exhibit his drafting skills to potential clients. With everything available on
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