Seven terms to never use in your legal briefs

  1. On or about [date]. If you want your reader to believe that something happened on a particular date, you’d better believe it yourself. If you hedge, the reader will wonder why you’re not even willing to commit to when something happened that you think is important enough to tell them about.
  2. Whereas, premises considered. This is an archaic formula that has no place in modern legal writing. Whether it ever deserved a place in the writing of any era I will leave to the historians.
  3. Hereinafter. When you substitute a long name or title for an abbreviation to save space, it is sufficiently clear to just use parentheses and quotes, thus:

International Business Machines Corp. (IBM)

In most cases—including the example just given—your reader won’t even need that much of an introduction. The lawyer representing IBM can safely use “IBM” from the start without fear of confusing anyone.

You should be very wary of all  here- and where- words: herewith, heretofore, whereby, whereas, and so on.

  1. Comes now. “Comes now the [Plaintiff, Defendant, etc.]” has a fine old-English ring to it. One imagines the party in question dramatically entering the courtroom while being announced by a herald. It’s surplusage; cut it.
  2. Said. Don’t use “said” as an adjective, as in “The respondent raised said brickbat over his head and struck Jones with it.” It stinks of the accumulated mildew of two centuries. “Such” as an adjective should be eliminated for the same reason.
  3. At that time. This is the sort of thing that will make people wonder if you are paid by the word. Say “then.” Also get rid of “at the present time” and all similar constructions. Do so at this time.
  4. The manner in which. Say “how” instead.

There are many more terms that you should never use; this list should get you thinking in the right direction.

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3 Responses

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  1. How about “by and through its undersigned attorneys”? I don’t understand why senior litigators at my firm insist on this. Thoughts? Cut it?

    • Absolutely. Of course it’s by and through the undersigned attorneys; nobody thinks the client wrote the brief.

Continuing the Discussion

  1. Seven terms to never use in your legal briefs | BriefRight | Just is Spanish |

    [...] Lawyers use lots of terms in their legal briefs that are a waste of space and a drain on the attention of the reader. Here are some that should be cut.  [...]

    March 8, 20133:35 am

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