Why Are Laws and Contracts Written in Such Complicated Legalese?Posted on: September 28, 2019
For centuries, the legal profession has been known for filling up pages with words. And words. And words. And words. Enough that each sentence ends up feeling like a math equation. Consider the following LSAT passage.
A university library budget committee must reduce exactly five of eight areas of expenditure—G, L, M, N, P, R, S, and W—in accordance with the following conditions:
If both G and S are reduced, W is also reduced.
If N is reduced, neither R nor S is reduced.
If P is reduced, L is not reduced.
Of the three areas L, M, and R, exactly two are reduced.
In this example, we haven’t even asked the first question yet. So why do lawyers have to think like this or write like this or, at times, even talk like this?
Verbosity, or excessive language, has been common for hundreds of years, going back to a time when clerks were actually “paid by the page” for any documents they wrote. In other words, while it might have been easy to write a message in a sentence or three, clerks would widen the margins and stretch out otherwise logical details into multiple pages, filled with what we now just refer to as legalese.
If contracts and laws had always been made simpler, then the legal profession would have maintained a simpler language, but the complexity of these documents in the modern era requires a continuation of the phrases and terms and complicated order of words. Attorneys know how to break through the legalese and help their clients understand their rights.
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