Thursday, February 26, 2009

Case Brief: an Oxymoron of Sorts?

Maybe it is my love of John Irving's descriptive penmanship, or maybe it is simply due to my inability to "toss away stuff you don't need in the end" (name that Phish tune?), but I absolutely struggled with an assignment that required the complex legal analysis of a fact pattern within 100 words. 

See what I mean!? That was 53 words right there. 

The point is that brevity is not one of my strong suits, at least when it comes to writing. Conversationally, I can be bluntly brief, sometimes to the point of being rude, as people who know me can attest...I digress. 

This exercise of legal analysis within 100 words has precipitated my interest in putting forth a concentrated effort to be more concise.  The legal field would be wise to do the same.  

Just take Facebook's recent Terms of Service fiasco as an illustrative example. By drafting terms in a concise and readable manner, Facebook could have avoided a community backlash that was spurned by ambiguities in the writing.  Users could not decipher what Facebook was trying to say.  Couple that with immense data privacy concerns, and Facebook's legal department comes off as looking disingenuous

Unfortunately, lawyers often use wordiness as a strategic tool, either to discourage careful reading, or to cleverly hide a critical point in the midst of a verbose paragraph.  Efforts to use brief and clear writing techniques will help allay misunderstandings, reduce 'legal paranoia', and encourage active readership by those who could actually benefit.  

Sometimes saying less really is saying more. 

1 comment:

They call me K. said...

dude...99 words on that one. Zwaaaa! s'ok though, irving had to cut out like 90 words for the first question. as for lawyers using brevity, that's the modern trend of legal writing, or so i was told by my first legal writing professor. words such as heretofore and therewith (and other U-like diction) is slowly, but surely, being retired. :)