Legalese has been heavily criticized, with many arguing that plain language law should be the standard for all legal documents. While it is true that legal jargon can be difficult for laypeople to understand, there is case to be made for the necessity and value of legalese.
Precision and Clarity
One of the primary purposes of legal language is to provide clear and precise communication. Legalese, despite its complex syntax and terminology, often serves this purpose well. The use of technical legal terms ensures that all parties involved in a legal matter understand the exact meaning of the language used. This level of specificity helps avoid ambiguity and confusion, which can lead to costly disputes and litigation.
Consistency Across Jurisdictions
Legalese allows for consistent application and interpretation of the law across jurisdictions. Legal professionals are trained to understand and work with this specialized language, ensuring that the principles and standards upheld in one jurisdiction are compatible with those in another. This consistency is crucial for the functioning of the legal system as a whole, fostering cooperation between jurisdictions and promoting fairness and efficiency.
The Role of Precedent
In common law systems, precedent plays a critical role in the development of legal principles. The use of legalese in court decisions and legal documents helps maintain the continuity and authority of precedent. With a standardized language, lawyers and judges can more easily identify and apply relevant legal principles to new cases, ensuring that the law evolves in a coherent and predictable manner.
Protection of Rights and Interests
Legal language serves as a shield for the rights and interests of the parties involved in a legal matter. When drafting contracts, wills, or other legally binding documents, legalese provides the specificity and nuance necessary to protect the interests of all parties. This level of detail is essential in complex transactions or disputes, where the stakes are high and the consequences of an imprecise or ambiguous document can be severe.
Expertise and Specialization
The use of legalese reinforces the specialized knowledge and expertise of legal professionals. Mastery of this language signifies a deep understanding of legal principles and the ability to navigate complex legal issues. This expertise allows lawyers to provide their clients with the best possible representation and ensures that the legal system functions efficiently and effectively.
While plain language law has its merits, particularly in making the law more accessible to laypeople, the importance of legalese cannot be underestimated. Technical legal language is essential for ensuring precision, consistency, protection of rights, and the efficient functioning of the legal system. Rather than dismissing legalese as an outdated relic, we should recognize its value and use it judiciously and responsibly in the practice of law.
For an alternate view, see Use Plain Language in Legal Documents