The way lawyers write is a long-standing bugbear of mine - it is a style that seems to have been handed down from generation to generation with little thought for the evolution of language and communication more generally.
When you receive as many emails, press releases and articles from lawyers as I do, then this is quite an issue.
So a hearty well done to Mike Dillon, general counsel at Adobe, for making public his department's plain English style guide (link below). It's a concise and sensible document that should be absorbed not just by lawyers, but also by those who work with them (particularly PR people - please) and even, dare I say, journalists.
The fact is that for centuries, the legal profession has been known for its redundant and ambiguous style of writing. For example, in Cervantes’ 17th century novel, Don Quixote cautions, “But do not give it to a lawyer’s clerk to write, for they use a legal hand that Satan himself will not understand.” The criticism is well-placed. Frequently, I find myself reading a legal document in my personal life — a mortgage, a car lease, a waiver for a child’s school activity — and thinking: “I’m an experienced attorney, and I have no idea what this means.” But it doesn’t have to be like this.