Are You Committing the Crime of Lawyerism?

When it comes to the law, there is much talk and less action about simplifying how we write. Every day we would see op-eds and webinars being held about “de-jargonizing” the law, demystifying the “legalese”. However, the moment one writes in a simpler manner, they are often chided.

In ‘The Elements of Legal Writing‘ (named after the classic ‘Elements of Style‘), Martha Faulk and Irving M. Mehler, give some easy and clear tips to improve your legal writing. One of them is avoiding the use of “lawyerisms”.

“Lawyerisms”, they say, is a term used only by lawyers. It sounds precise but is in reality, imprecise. As per them, legal writers ” … agree […] that they operate as a kind of shorthand among lawyers.”

Take the word “aforesaid”

It’s no accident that aforesaid is the archetypal example of a lawyerism. At first glance it may seem that aforesaid is a word indicating precision, as in “the aforesaid witness.” If there is only one witness mentioned in the document, however, the word aforesaid is certainly superfluous.

But what if there are many witnesses mentioned? Then “witness Smith” or “the witness for the defendant” will certainly be more precise and save the reader the trouble of rereading the document to locate the “aforesaid.”

Here’s a list of lawyerisms and some suggested substitutions as per the book.

LawyersimSuggested Substitute
above captionedthis case, this claim
aforementioned(delete or rename)
aforesaid(delete or rename)
attached heretoattached is, attached are
during the course ofduring
forsweargive up, renounce
hereafterfrom now on
hereinin this document
hereinabovethe above
hereinafterhere called
hereofof this
herewithalong with this
Hithertoup to now
in regard toabout, regarding
inasmuch assince, because
in reference toabout, regarding
moreoverfurther, in addition
said (as an adjective)(delete or replace with “the”)
same (as a noun)(use appropriate pronoun)
thencefrom that time, from that place
thenceforthfrom then on
thereafter from then on
there atthere
thereforfor this, for that
therefromfrom it, from that
to witfor example
whereas(delete unless you mean “on the contrary”)
whereatat what, at which
wherebyby which
whereforewhy, for what
whereinin what, in which
whereofof what, of which
whereonon what
whereuponafter which

How many lawyerisms do you use in your writings?

If you liked the list, you could check out the book here.

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  1. (Amongst – Among) was not mentioned in the list. I guess the subtle difference between the two words is too insignificant to merit the omission. Perhaps it does find its place in the book.