9 Words and Phrases That Lawyers Use which Have to Stop

Lawyers think they’re expert communicators.

Most are wrong.

If you replace the word “expert” with “unnecessarily complicated” (or anfractuous, if you’re feeling extra clever today) then you’re closer to the truth.

We can start by killing stone dead a few phrases that seem to hang around like a bad smell, despite decades of lawyers supposedly learning good legal drafting skills having being put through the ringer about plain English drafting. Unlike many examples I can give which should mostly die, these ones have no place of any kind in any legal document. Ever.

Let’s begin.

Opine

Don’t ask people to opine about things. Ask them their opinion.

“Please opine on the topic of X” vs “What’s your opinion about X?”.

It’s a no-brainer, isn’t it?

If your goal is to sound as pompous as humanly possible, while your reader is assured of their own stupidity, then this is the word to use.

Verily Believe

This is normally found in affidavits. “I am informed by Ms Jones, and I verily believe, that Mr Smith handed Mr Frank a huge wad of cash.”

Riddle me this – what happens if you remove the word verily (which, by the way, just means “truly”)?

Nothing.

Absolutely nothing.

Like what war is good for.

We Note That

There is no sentence in which these words add any meaning. None.

Normally “we note that” is an introduction to a topic or a sentence from someone who wants to say something, but feels that doing so immediately would be too abrupt.

And so they note things as if that somehow softens the blow and makes their statements more important.

We note that you wrote your letter of 12 January.

We note that your letterhead is blue.

We note that the sky is pink.

We note that your client sucks.

We Advise That

See “we note that”.

Aforesaid

This, together with abovesaid, abovementioned, aforementioned and every variation on that theme, fall into the same category as opine.

If you want to mention something again in a letter, use paragraph numbering or definitions.

That way, instead of saying “the aforesaid claim” you can just say “the Claim” and avoid sounding like a git.

Otiose

Ironically, the word describes itself very well.

Said

I’m ok with the word “said” but not when it’s used like this:

we went to the park with our bikes, and the we got sunburnt at the said park

Sometimes it’s convenient, but it sounds pretty stupid don’t you think?*

*I admit I’ve done this sometimes…

With Respect

I confess I’ve used this. Not because I think it’s a good idea, but because I feel some kind of obligation to say it before I disagree with someone.

Since most professional conduct rules require a degree of decorum between practitioners, can’t we accept that things said are usually with respect, and not have to add in this little preface before saying something?

With respect, the use of these words is almost always the best way to indicate that what you’re about to say isn’t respectful at all.

In which case you either shouldn’t say it, or you should rephrase.

Inutile

This barely-English-but-mostly-French word is creeping around these days, although I managed to avoid it for a long time.

It falls into the same category as a few of those above – unnecessarily pompous. Here are some alternatives if you feel like you have to use it one day (for some of these you should probably start your sentence “with respect”):

Those are Mine – What are Yours?

I’m sure I haven’t covered the field here.

What words need to die this year in your practice?

With respect.

Inter alia.

Happy Lawyering!

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