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Why don't solicitors use plain English?

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Someone wrote a gripe a while ago about solicitors fees being to high.  I'd like to elaborate on that a bit and in particular ask what exactly is it that you get for your money?

Words, that's what you get, and you get lots and lots of them.  I strongly suspect the more you pay and the more complex the legal issue, the more words you get.  We recently had a trust deed drawn up by our local solicitors when we were in the process of buying a house.  The document was five pages long and its purpose was to acknowledge the fact that my partner would own the larger share of equity arising from any future sale of the house.  It's not a big deal really.  You have to have some legal mumbo jumbo in there to lay out all the ground rules I suppose, but five pages?

hereto, hereof, hereby, hereafter, hereinafter...

Taking a closer look at the document (yes, we always do that once we've signed it don't we?) I can see why it is so lengthy.  Frequently dropping in rarely used and confusing words serves to pad the whole thing out as far as I can see.  Words such as hereto, hereof, hereby, hereafter, hereinafter, forthwith, whereas, witnesseth, pursuant etc. are scattered nonchalantly throughout the text, presumably it makes it sound more impressive to other solicitors!

Plain english, a dictionary Although not an "A" student by any means, I consider that I have a half reasonable grasp of the English language yet I had to read some parts of this document several times before I completely understood what was meant.  Goodness knows what a person who didn't make it through school would cope with it.

Just for fun counted the number of times "hereto" was repeated and it was at least 15 times; hereby and hereof were repeated almost as frequently.  The last sentence was the best though, it read "IN WITNESS whereof the hands of the parties hereto the day and year first before written."

Hmmm...  Good one that, fortunately the blank boxes for the signatures kind of gave it away!

So in this day and age of ultrafast communication isn't it about time that legal documents were updated as well?  Come on all you solicitors and legal folks, I hereby ask you to please consider using plain English forthwith!


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Nonny

Nonny

Lawyers can be a tricky lot but older legal documents had no punctuation other than full stops, to avoid them being altered later to mean something else, so legal language became very convoluted to allow for the lack of commas, hyphens and semi-colons etc.
23/10/11 Nonny
3
the real athair_siochain

the real athair_siochain

My Mother told me, solicitors use jargonised English to pull the wool over peoples eyes.they do have a bag of tricks, and I remember reading a book called "The Ratbag Profession " it tells in detail how the Legal System Works, it was created by King Solomon to get the guilty off, Christ guilty robbers innocent, anyway if you look into the Justice System you will find the majority of Lawyers and Judges collect rent and interest, add to that most of our politicians are Landlords and moneylenders, so what chance do we have in getting a fair go, we will never have a fair go, until we end the activities of landlords and moneylenders, that is not going to happen while they control law making, control printing money and doctoring the money market,
23/10/11 the real athair_siochain
-6
GrumpyOldWoman

GrumpyOldWoman

I used to temp for someone called Judge Holden. Instead of putting today's date, as 20th May, on the top of his letters, he used to put 30th instant (or 30th ultimo, 30th proximo, if I recall correctly) instead. It did made me smile. If I changed it, he used to complain and make me type it the way it was.

Disclaimer:
The notice herein above wholly and exclusively represents the views of the above-mentioned parties on ...
30/05/09 GrumpyOldWoman
-2
VN

VN

They use impenetrable language so that you need to hire lawyers to decipher it. £££
27/02/09 VN
-4
Sam, the Tiger

Sam, the Tiger

If you mean that lawyers in general have a a tendency to apply legalese and jargon in their documentation, you are right. But they are not excessively used. It is for the sake of brevity and precision of meaning that they are generally tolerated. For example, if the contract is one that is 'contra bonos mores' and thereby void - as in the case of 'res extincta' - and not voidable, we know why it is so. There are case laws to support the argument.

But it is a different story when a legal document is highly convoluted as to befuddle us. I'm sure many are poorly written as will become a bone of seerious contention in court. A paragraph could be up to 25-30 lines obfuscated with wherefores and wheretofores and such, almost to the point of being a virtual (or real) run-off sentence. It's bad English, if you agree with me, and lacking in simplicity and readability.

I guess to read and understand a legal document is a matter of practice. We just need to wade through its quirks and quawks. I don't think it is any easier to understand Eliot's Waste Land as it is to understand Joyce's Finnegan's Wake without any background help and information. They are brutal, especially the latter.

All In all, I agree. Something can and should be done. I've heard of trained lawyers whose standard of English leaves a lot to be desired, maybe not in Britain. Yeah, indeed, very strange transition words and phrases!

P.S. Years back, the bank I deal with came up with a revamped version of chattel mortgage that is written for the layman, like me. It is so simple to swallow and digest, so idiot-proof, so we won't trip up. E&OE
25/10/08 Sam, the Tiger
-6
Nick

Nick

Here's a clue. Try to get a solicitor to write in "plain English" as you call it then get it tested in court. The documents are complex to remove ambiguity. If you don't understand it write to them and ask them to explain it.

If you think for a second that a contract has "helped the solicitor out" then you're a pillock. Not withstanding losing ten years of training and a good salary through disbarment, they face a prison sentence.
06/08/08 Nick
-2
That's what I mean

That's what I mean

Some solicitors think they are king of ace with all the jargon they use to make one thing that appears to be the opposite of the opposite of what it really is in order to confuse people. By making things have double meanings (ambiguous) they can always hope for you to interpret it one way for the better of them and when you realise it was not what was intended they could claim you misinterpreted it even though they steered you to believe otherwise.

I don’t trust solicitors with their not-so-trusting ways of not telling you what you should be told but telling you things that don’t matter.

I have never come across a solicitor who hasn’t make a mistake in his favour or not misled me into interpreting things the wrong way, so I have little or no faith in these legalised criminals who think it is clever to mislead.

Sums up MPs and other figureheads, doesn’t it?
14/07/08 That's what I mean
-1
senchi

senchi

That's easy! It's because they don't want to anyone else, outside of their professional circle, to know what they mean. It's called 'legal mafia' and it rules the world.
07/03/08 senchi
-36
MikeP

MikeP

I had the opposite problem with a so called professional solicitor who did the conveyancing on one of my properties. She used to send me e-mails starting with 'hi'. I am quite informal but having never even met this woman I felt this was totally inappropriate. I could possibly have forgiven the 'hi' if the emails and even her letters had not been full of spelling and grammatical errors. This from someone who charged out her time at over £100 an hour!
05/03/08 MikeP
-9
Nikki

Nikki

Ask who are the real Crooks :

LOL ! Very funny indeed !
05/03/08 Nikki
-35
Mark Adler

Mark Adler

You're quite right. I spent over 20 years in practice as a "plain language" solicitor before retiring. If you want some material to help persuade your solicitors to mend their ways look at www.adler.demon.co.uk. And if you contact me on adler@adler.demon.co.uk I can send you a specimen trust memo.
05/03/08 Mark Adler
-1
Ask who are the real crooks

Ask who are the real crooks

Hereinafter the parties to the first cause agree pursuant to their claim

40% to party Aa, 25% to party Bb and 35% Solicitors Bloggins and Bustards.
05/03/08 Ask who are the real crooks
4
Anonymous

Anonymous

Chill out folks. It's not that big a deal realy, I was merely pointing out something that was obvious and a little bit of a nuisance. Solicitors have a job to do, I'm sure they don't rip you off any more than say, estate agents, banks, double glazing salesmen etc. etc.

Hmmm.... fair point!
04/03/08 Anonymous
1
Nikki

Nikki

I'm not making excuses !!

Just merely pointing out the facts ... that during a court case with a jury, the Judge should explain to the jury exactly what the case is about etc. etc., and if any juror was bewildered by legal jargon, he only had to ask for an explanation! To my knowledge, Judges don't make a charge for this !
04/03/08 Nikki
10
Nick

Nick

Nikki, don't use tradition as an excuse to rip people off. People are probably too scared to ask for an explanation of the terms used cos' it would cost another arm or leg for the letter.
04/03/08 Nick
4

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