|Legalese is even older than this.|
"When you wish to instruct, be brief; that men’s minds take in quickly what you say, learn its lesson, and retain it faithfully. Every word that is unnecessary only pours over the side of a brimming mind." -Cicero, Roman politician and lawyer. A major influence on the Latin language.
"By 2100, about half the world’s languages will be lost, say linguists; one dies every 14 days. Don’t bet legalese will be among them." Why is this the case?
Today we're going to take a close look at Legal English, sometimes referred to pejoratively as "legalese". We're going to take a look at what legalese is, the history of it, and why the legal tech industry is working hard to disrupt it.
Legal English is a more formal version of the English language, with different logic and grammar rules from Standard English. Certain words have different meaning in a Legal English context. For example, in Legal English "consideration" refers to something of value that is exchanged between two parties.
|It never hurts to keep it real.|
There are many reasons why lawyers use legalese, among them:
- It conveys the formalness of a situation. There is power in formality.
- The practice of law is rich in tradition. This is is the way things have always done.
- It creates a legal culture, one that separates lawyers from everyone else. How else are lawyers going to identify each other? See also: Shibboleth.
- If people don't know what they're paying for, they're inclined to pay more for it.
- A false sense of security. If you put more words on a document, it means you have all your bases covered right?
Ever since the 70s there has been a movement to abolish legalese from the English language, especially in government agencies and contracts.