What is Legalese?

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What is Legalese?

Legalese refers to contract language that lawyers use. This legal terminology or legal-speak typically refers to words like “henceforth” and “stipulation”. Essentially, legalese is lawyers’ lingo that may be difficult for people outside of the industry to understand.

Generally, it’s appropriate for a lawyer to use legalese when completing legal drafting or speaking with a judge. However, since it can cause a language barrier, it’s not ideal for communicating with clients.

Keep reading to find out where you can find legalese, get some examples, and insight into why lawyers use it. Then, learn why it’s not always the best language for lawyers to use in certain situations.

Where Do You Find Legalese?

The language of the US legal system has been strongly influenced by latin. Consequently, many Latin terms taken from their original text have been translated into a language that lawyers commonly used, called legalese.

The most common place you can find legalese is within a contract. This is because when contract lawyers draft a contract , they may find it necessary to use the terminology out of lack of a better word to use.

Contract templates are another example of a place where you can commonly find legalese. Since these templates were often created by lawyers for use by the general public, it makes sense that it has the same language as attorneys generally use.

It’s usually acceptable for lawyers to use legalese when it comes to contracts. However, the use of legalese is one of the reasons why so many people must hire lawyers to help them with the review and revision of contracts. Legalese can become confusing fast for someone who is not a lawyer, so hiring special expertise is a great way to avoid this.

Legalese is also often found in lawyers’ arguments in the courtroom. This is often because they must be as precise as possible when they are making arguments. When it comes to jury trials, some lawyers may use legalese to leave certain parts of their opponents’ argument up for interpretation, which improves their chances of winning the case.

Overall, legalese is useful lingo in many scenarios. It allows lawyers to speak in the most efficient way possible and allows them to communicate their points to one another and the judge in a way that is easily understood in the legal society.

However, even though it’s commonly found in court documents and the courtroom, it’s not always the best way to communicate. Keep reading to find out why.

Check out this article to learn more about where you can find legalese.

Legalese Examples

Legalese is legal jargon that is best understood by lawyers and other representatives of contracts. It is mostly found in contracts and other legal documents and is often spoken in the courtroom amongst lawyers and judges.

To help you get a better example of what legalese is, here are a few examples:

  • Habeas corpus : to bring a person before the court
  • De facto : in reality
  • Ad infinitum : forever
  • Locus delicti : the scene of the crime
  • Quid pro quo : an equal exchange
  • Prima facie : at first sight
  • Ipso facto : by that very fact
  • In camera : in private; spectators forbidden

Here is an article where you can find more examples of legalese.

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Why Do Lawyers Use Legalese?

One of the most important jobs of a lawyer is precision and accuracy. Language is no exception. Even though there may be more widely understood language that could be used to communicate a point, that is not a lawyer’s goal when they use legalese.

Instead, they aim to get their point across most efficiently and directly. The easiest way to get this done in many cases is by using legalese. That is, of course, if the person they are communicating with is familiar with the terminology.

Another important thing to note is that many terms within legalese have entire histories of law to back them up. Consequently, when specific words are used, the legal ramifications that result could be widely different.

It is a lawyer’s job to choose his words wisely to make sure he is understood perfectly. One misspoken word could cause chaos when it comes to legal proceedings. Therefore, legalese can be crucial in many situations.

When it comes to writing contracts, precision is perhaps even more important. The English language is complex; many words have multiple meanings and can be open for interpretation in many cases. When it comes to legal drafting, there can be no room for interpretation due to the risk of the contract not standing up in court.

Legalese in contracts allows lawyers to communicate as clearly as possible to avoid any miscommunication, confusion, or leaving anything up for debate. Since contracts are binding legal agreements that set the tone for litigation, it’s always a good idea for lawyers to use legalese instead of standard language for ultimate precision.

Learn more about why lawyers use legalese by checking out this article .

Why is Legalese Bad?

Even though legalese can be helpful in situations such as legal drafting, it is not always the best choice that lawyers can use for language. Since it is not widely understood, it could cause communication problems between lawyers and clients.

Sometimes, lawyers who use legalese too much can come off as pretentious. This is because sometimes, attorneys overuse legalese to look smarter or more experienced than their counterparts. Especially when it’s not warranted, most lawyers tend to avoid legalese to protect their reputations.

Some people argue that legalese isn’t necessary at all. Even though legalese can be useful in certain scenarios for precision, it’s also possible that better use of the typical English language would suffice. Instead of using a crutch, lawyers could work on communicating more effectively by organizing their thoughts better.

On the other hand, when legalese is used in litigation, it’s often done so to connect a crime to previous instances. This is due to the ramifications of the crime being different based on past decisions. Since so much of our court system is based on rulings that have happened in the past, lawyers might argue that it’s necessary.

However, that doesn’t have to be the case. Using legalese is just one way to achieve this; simply citing previous decisions is a great alternative for using legalese. It is also more descriptive and allows for a more direct comparison to the case a lawyer wants to refer to.

In short, there is always a different way to use language precisely that does not involve using legalese. Since so much of the population isn’t familiar with the foreign lingo, it may be a better idea to eliminate the use of it to allow for more direct understanding.

If you need help understanding legalese or need document drafting with the language included, the best way to move forward is by getting in touch with a contract lawyer.

Post a project on ContractsCounsel today to get connected with contract lawyers who are familiar with legalese and are ready to help you today. All lawyers are vetted by our team and peer reviewed by our customers for you to explore before hiring.

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