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Good legal writing can play a very important role in winning cases but it is also hard work to be a good legal writer. To be effective, the sentences must be written clearly and persuasively(convincing) about complicated matters to readers. So like any other skills, good legal writing takes practice and a mastery of certain fundamentals. And the fundamental Principles which should be followed are given below –
1. Concision: It is minimizing words while conveying an idea. It aims to enhance communication by eliminating redundancy (unneeded words) without omitting important functions. It has been described as one of the elementary principles of writing. It means to be economical with words, expressing what is needed using the fewest words necessary that may involve removing redundant or unnecessary phrases or replacing them with the shorter ones.
It has also been described as ‘eliminating words that take up space without saying much’. In the construction of any sentence, the most important word is the verb. A verb should be short and precise. The subject should be identifiable from the context or introduction, and it should not need to be repeated every time it appears in a sentence.
Legal professionals use concision in order to make their legal arguments more persuasive and easier for courts and other lawyers to understand.
Moreover, it makes our work seem more professional and persuasive while saving our time which can end up being costly in the long run. Hence, it is one of the important fundamental principles of legal writing.
2. Clarity: It is the quality of being understandable. It is the quality of being expressed, remembered, understood etc. in a very exact way. It is vital as any ambiguity in what is written has the potential to cause confusion.
3. Cogency: It is the quality or state of being convincing or persuasive. It only applies to inductive arguments. An argument is cogent if it is strong and the premises are true.
4. Simplicity: It is the quality of being simple. Something easy to understand or explain seems simple, in contrast to something complicated. The quality or condition of being easy to understand i.e. the meaning should be clear and uncomplicated.
5. Note-Making: The Qualities of a good note is, it must be brief.
METHODS OF LEGAL WRITING:
- Cornell Method: This method is based on two columns i.e. the column of the left hand side will contain the keyboard/concept and the column on the right hand side will contain the description on notes, associated with the keyboard/concept.
- Outlining Method: This method involves writing a series of topics and sub-topics and identifying them by indenting the text, numbering the lines or using a dash or bullet points.
- Charting Method: This method involves a table of rows and columns with a top row generally containing the keyboard which clarifies the concept linked in the row table.
- Sentence Method: This method involves the writing of a very new concept or topic on a separate line and the information can also be numbered if necessary.
THE CHARACTERISTICS/FEATURES OF PRINCIPLES OF LEGAL WRITING:
1. BRIEF WRITING
Brief writing means written instructions by a lawyer or barrister representing a client in legal proceedings. In other words the brief means a summary of law points prepared and written for the purpose of argument.
There is no definite rule for preparing and writing a brief of a case or matter. However, for writing an effective and impressive brief some tips may be given.
These are as follows:
- It is one of the methods of composition. Therefore, a brief should be written in a clear and effective language.
- A brief should be written point wise while maintaining the sequence of incidents.
- A brief should be based on the facts as there is no scope of imagination and presumption.
- Ordinarily, a brief should also be written in third person and past tense.
- It is desirable to maintain the title of the matter in hand.
- We should not write subscriptions like yours sincerely, faithfully, etc.
- Before preparing and writing the brief of a case or matter one is suggested to read and underline the important sentences and law points.
- In support of the brief mention of annexure or page number in brackets at the end of the sentence.
- At the end the name and signature of the person along with the date is necessary who writes the brief.
Generally a brief should be prepared and written in the sequence given below :
- Facts of the case in summarized form;
- Issues involved or framed;
- Contentions (arguments) raised and case law cited;
- In case of judgment, the operative portion of the same.
2. CASE COMMENT
In contrast(opposite) to a case outline, a case analysis is a specialized bit of lawful composing which digs profoundly into a few layers of the case. We are required to strip/Show these layers off to draw out the issues and break down to analysis of the cases in the light of those issues.
POSSIBLE APPROACHES TO WRITING A CASE COMMENT:
- Law is not clear.
- The judgment is correct and clears the Law.
- The judgment was wrong.
- The judgment was not wrong but the reasoning.
- Important issue not discussed.
STEPS TO WRITE A CASE COMMENT:
INTRODUCTION: A case comment ideally begins with a short paragraph identifying the subject of the case so as to give the reader a fair idea regarding the issues we are going to address in the comment.
The subsequent section ought to be a short proclamation of facts expressing just the piece of the factual matrix which is fundamental to the issue being factually talked about.
BACKGROUND: The purpose of writing this section is to let the reader get the idea about the factual subject matter of the case before we can start our analysis. The absolute initiative step to do this is to draw a framework of the advancement of the law paving the case under review by touching upon the landmark cases and significant statutory developments. This encourages the reader’s access to the court’s choice and understands the arguments in a simplified manner.
ANALYSIS: It is regarded as the main limb of the case comment. Here four relevant questions needed to be asked by yourself.
They are –
- Was the Court’s decision right?
- Is the decision the same/in the contrary to the existing law? Was the reasoning similar or supplementary with the previous reasoning in the similar or relevant cases? Whether the decisions subsequently influence the existing law?
- Did the court justify its reasoning? Was the interpretation of the law legitimate? Was the reasoning against/for? Did the court consider all issues or reject them? If there was omission, does it prove a demerit?
- What are the policy implications of the decision? Are there any other sources which would lead to more appropriate public policy in this area?
If you have answered all the questions then 80% of your job has been done. Your answer to these questions needs to be sustained by logical assertions and adequate reasoning.
CONCLUSION: The conclusion must contain the principle embodied by the creators or lawyer’s discoveries and interpretation. It’s not always necessary to arrive at the conclusion that the court’s decision was correct.
USING FOOTNOTES IN A CASE COMMENT: In case comment one must use an end-note based method of citation, as opposed to the textual citation you have used in briefs and memorandum. Your end-notes should be placed at the end of your comment, in a separate end-note section.
A report is an informational work containing information about certain events in a wide presentable form. Reports are often conveyed in writing, speech, television or film. Reports may refer to specific periods, events, occurrences or subjects and may be communicated or presented in oral or written form.
STAGES IN WRITING A REPORT:
All reports need to be clear, concise and well structured. The essential steps of writing a good report are as follows:
- Understanding the purpose of the report.
- Gathering and selecting relevant information.
- Organizing the collected material
- Analyzing the materials
- Drafting of the report
- Reviewing and redrafting
4. LAW REPORT
A law report is a record of judicial decision on a point of law which sets a precedent. Law reports are of two kinds –
a. Full Text Law Report
b. Summary Reports
DRAFTING OF LAW REPORTS:
An outline of a document is called drafting and one who drafts a document is called draftsman rather than designer. However, drafting of law reports is another form of brief writing. But, in the field of legal profession a brief of the case is prepared and written with a view to prepare arguments of the case. Like brief writing, the drafting of law reports should also be in concise pattern while giving complete details of the case decided by the Court.
Mostly, legal reporters of newspapers and magazines are engaged in drafting law reports but it is expected that they are well familiar with legal terminology and moderate knowledge of law.
Sir James Fitzjames Stephen, a former Law Member of the Government of India has said ‘the law reports are not merely reprints of the written judgments of the judges’.
He was of the view that a law reports should consist of –
- Statement of facts of the case
- Statement of the arguments of the advocates
- Held/operative portion of the judgment
He also opined (suggested) that law reporting should be regarded as a branch of legislation needed attention of the Government.
CITING OF REPORTED CASES: In citing reported cases it is helpful to the court first to summarize the proposition of law in support of which the case is cited, then to give distinctly and accurately the name of the case and its reference in the law reports, giving the judge time to make a note of it and then to read such passages as bear upon the note as issue. Counsel (lawyer) owes a duty to the court to bring to its notice all the relevant authorities of which they are aware even though they may tell against their case.
5. LEGAL CITATION
It is the practice of crediting and referring to authoritative documents and sources. A legal citation refers to a specific legal source such as constitution, a statute, reported cases, a regulation, a treatise or a law review article. A legal citation needs to be used to support or refute (deny) an argument, to provide the legal basis of an argument and simply to indicate the source of the claim.
PURPOSE OF CITATION:
- Identify the document and document part to which the writer is referring.
- Provide the reader with sufficient information to find the document or the document part in the sources the reader has available (which may or may not be the same sources as those used by the writer).
- Furnish important additional information about the referenced material and its connection to the writer’s argument to assist readers in deciding whether or not to pursue the reference.
WRITING A LEGAL CITATION:
There are primarily 6 components of Case Law –
- The names of the parties involved in the suit: Traditionally, the names of the parties to a case are mentioned in italics. If there is more than one party on either side, cite only the first name listed. The omission may be indicated by the use of ‘& Ors’ meaning ‘and others’.
- Year: This follows the year in which the parties have registered the case. It is enclosed in either round or square brackets.
- The volume of the reporter containing the full text of the case: If there is volume number as a part of the law report series, and then it must be indicated immediately after the year.
- The abbreviated (short form) name of the case reporter: There are the standard forms of abbreviation of most law report series.
- The page number on which the case begins: Give the page number at which the case begins in the series of reports cited.
- The name of the court deciding the case: The name of the Court pronouncing the judgment may or may not be there.
Moreover, the States with their unique style for court documents and case opinions also publish their own style guide, which includes information or citation rules.
It can be concluded as it helps in following a line of argument straight through many abbreviations and special terms embedded in it.