July 03, 2013

Obtuse and obscure legal journals


I just came across an announcement from Queen's University School of Law that it has published the second edition of the Web Journal or Current Legal Issues, see here.

Funny that. Everywhere I read authoritative voices are saying that the traditional law review, law journal is dying if not dead. 

See comments in LexBlog here, here and the Atlantic Magazine here. Also read comments from a law professor from the University of Denver here. Also on Bloomberg Law here and below:




Even the chief justice of the US Supreme Court is skeptical about the ongoing value of traditional legal publications. He told judges last year: 
"Pick up a copy of any law review that you see, and the first article is likely to be, you know, the influence of Immanuel Kant on evidentiary approaches in 18th Century Bulgaria, or something." 
Law lecturer, Pamela Samuelson writing in the University of Pittsburgh Law Review in 1984 (here) explained how arcane and convoluted legal writing can be bad for law students. The very reason why law students write badly:
"As I have worked with law students on supervised writing projects, I have noticed that lucidity does not come naturally to most law students, perhaps because they have been forced in their legal studies to read so much bad writing that they mistake what they've read for the true and proper model."
Certainly this would back up my take on the way law was taught through the most verbose and fluffy legal writing. I wrote in Defero Law here:
"Throughout my 5 years at law school I continually asked myself one question: why can’t these guys just write in plain English?"
You can see Newton Emerson's take on the writing of the former head of QUB School of Law here. 

Matthew Salzwedel writing in the lawyerist has two fantastic pieces on the lawyers condition towards makings writing very difficult for the lay person, here and here. Another good analysis of bushy and unreadable legal writing is in the tweet below:
From where it was said:
'Legalese, plain language’s mean and cruel stepsister, has no place in the legal department. Or so would argue Joseph Kimble, an author and legal writing professor at Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Lansing, Michigan. In his recent blog post, “You Think Anybody Likes Legalese?”, Kimble tackles the myth that legalese is superior to conventional word choice, and he agreed to share with CorpCounsel.com some tips and thoughts on how plain language “can be just as forceful and inspiring” as its archaic, legalistic sibling.'
All of this reminds me of the essay, 'Politics and the English Language' by George Orwell who wrote about the tendency for academics to write ugly and very vague, imprecise language. Here's an example Orwell gave:
"All the "best people" from the gentlemen's clubs, and all the frantic fascist captains, united in common hatred of Socialism and bestial horror at the rising tide of the mass revolutionary movement, have turned to acts of provocation, to foul incendiarism, to medieval legends of poisoned wells, to legalize their own destruction of proletarian organizations, and rouse the agitated petty-bourgeoise to chauvinistic fervor on behalf of the fight against the revolutionary way out of the crisis."
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