July 01, 2013

Orwell, clear prose and bad legal writing


Pamela Samuelson, writing in the University of Pittsburgh Law Review in 1984 explained 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."
You can read Pamela Samuelson in full here.

Coincidentally you can read my blog post, 'The Case for Plain English' on Defero Law here. In that post I explain how I was always stumped by the reading lists set by my undergraduate law lecturers at Queen's University Belfast. The law texts were written in the most dense, convoluted transcribed logorrhea imaginable. The texts were illegible and wholly incomprehensible to the lay reader; written for and by the self-interested and narcissistic legal academic.

And that's why I loved it so much when Northern Ireland commentator Newton Emerson called a paper written by the head of the QUB School of Law as "utter bollocks from start to finish."

Here's Newton Emerson's tweet another time for those who missed it:
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