AuthorNeil Guthrie
This book began out of frustration.
Frustration at the turgid, pedantic, Latin-f‌illed, jargon-ridden,
misspelt, ungrammatical, and inelegant writing that issues from the
pens and keyboards of lawyers, law students, and those who come
within their orbit (assistants can have an unfortunate tendency to
replicate the bad habits of those they work with).
My working title was Please Don’t Write Like a Lawyer, but my
publisher counselled against using that, in case it alienated the
book’s main audience. It nevertheless provides an accurate insight
into my motivation and method.
Why is legal writing so bad? People come to the profession from
various academic and other backgrounds, and early on they feel as
though they have been initiated into not only a mode of reasoning but
also of writing: the art or mystery perhaps of law is attended
by its terms of art. These are a hodge-podge of words, phrases, and
habits of expression that have accreted over the centuries, mixing
Law French with Latin, the English of the early modern period,
memorable phrases from the case law, and def‌ined terms from stat-
utes. Fluency with the lingo is seen, especially in law school and the
early years of practice, as a proxy for knowledge of the law itself
(whether this is true or not). Being a generally conservative and cau-
tious bunch, lawyers are reluctant to change any wording they have
learned or which practice has sanctioned, preferring the certainty of

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