It’s funny that the moment we imagine a lawyer practising his profession, we would often visualize him donning the black gown and spinning a bewitching spiel in front of the judge.
Flailing his arms about, strolling from one end of the court to another, and giving that intense stare that gets the elusive nod from the judge…
Don’t we all love to imagine a lawyer to be like this?
Starting from Better Call Saul to Veer Zara, in popular culture, the lawyer is believed to be the one who possesses a silver tongue. He shoots clever things out of his mouth and seizes the day for his client.
The idea is that a successful lawyer is a highly extroverted glib speaker. But this picture does not do much justice to the reality.
There are plenty of lawyers who are essentially introverts, and while oratory and courtroom presentation has a role to play, that is just the tip of the iceberg. There is so much that is done under the surface – research, writing, conceptualization, thinking – stuff that introverts are very well suited for.
And one skill that is very essential for lawyers but is always relegated to the background is the art of writing. Or drafting.
Written communication skill is as important as the spoken communication skill in the legal profession.
The written word is so powerful that it can be effectively used to advocate, inform, threaten, harass, alarm, instruct, convince, entertain, comfort and much more.
This article focuses on one of the most important legal skills ever: Legal Drafting (the art of penning legal documents).
Let’s start with the most obvious yet overlooked problem first.
The problem that still stays unresolved
While in law school, we had a clinical paper called ‘Drafting, Pleading and Conveyance’ with a maximum score of 100. We were supposed to prepare a term paper where we would discuss legal drafting a bit and include the sample formats of the most important documents we could think of.
I secured 96 out of 100 in that paper! *pat on my back*
The secret to that?
Letting dust gather on the cover of my textbook, hunt down the best assignment papers from my seniors and be meticulous in choosing only the best one, ramp up my graphic designing skills in a day and come up with a picturesque cover for the assignment project.
Sarcasm apart, I didn’t learn anything about legal drafting or pleading at law school. And that’s probably the case with most law students out there, including you.
You might have invested a hefty Rs 600 on Dr S.R. Myneni’s book.
You might have gone through a few petitions at your senior’s chamber.
You might have even prepared notes on the paper for your semester examination.
But if I ask you whether you spent enough time and energy mastering legal drafting or not, the answer would most probably be in the negative.
Guess what, you are not alone. A vast majority of lawyers never receive any specific training on legal drafting in their career.
A few manage to pick up acceptable levels of drafting on their own.
The truth is, law schools still don’t teach you the practical aspect of the legal profession.
They teach you to memorise a bunch of sections and case laws and ask you the same, old questions as was asked 10 years ago.
Legal research? Not much unless you take it upon yourself and find some mentors to help you.
Oratory skills? Only through occasional moots and debates but only the extroverted ones who take pride in their spoken English and debating skills take the initiative most of the time.
Legal drafting? Forget about it. You will learn it later on when you actually enter the profession. Seriously?
Who is going to teach me drafting when I get a job? It just does not happen all that often.
You probably graduate out of law school without knowing how to draft a simple legal notice. Then you begin to draft notices by seeing what others are doing but you are never sure if you are doing the best that can be done.
What would have happened if you could drastically improve your drafting skills with proper deliberations, corrections and coaching?
Could that create an advantage for you in the legal profession?
Even practising lawyers need brushing up…
During my practice at the Calcutta High Court, there sat a particular judge, rather infamous for being finicky about trivial (I mean, really trivial) things.
Don’t you know how to tie a legal document?
Don’t you know how to use the mic properly?
Explain to me the Form 16A from Appendix E in the CPC.
So, it happened that an important proceeding came up before this judge one day. While the whole court was probably expecting a full-on argument on the issue at hand, can you guess what happened next?
The judge dismissed the petition because the venue of the arbitration proceeding was not correctly mentioned in a supplementary document filed in the court. The counsel tried to convince him that he would file a fresh, error-free version of the same the next day, and apologized multiple times before the court.
“The case is dismissed. One more word and I will impose costs.”
The advocate, flustered and embarrassed, resigned without a further word.
Mind it, he was not a fresh face in the court premises. He was an experienced lawyer who had a busy practice and was a regular at the court. (If he had not been so, the result might have been different.)
Yet he made a mistake in the legal document!
Apart from this, I have seen my own senior fumbling while drafting a petition in a commercial case as per the Commercial Courts Act, 2015. We had to visit the Master’s chamber to get the template for that.
Let’s just say that even experienced legal practitioners face issues when it comes to legal drafting. Whether it is that the issue is complex enough or that the format is unknown to them, even experienced lawyers need brushing up on their legal drafting skills from time to time.
What can you achieve with good legal drafting skills?
I have lived the life of an advocate myself, and many of my friends are practising lawyers. I can tell you that great legal drafting skill is required everywhere you go in your legal journey. Whether it is the start of your legal career or after a few good years of experience, strong legal drafting skills can get you high-quality work, hefty paychecks and faster progress.
Following are the 4 primary areas where your drafting ability will stand you in good stead.
Practising under senior advocates
Most senior advocates are always in high demand for advisory and drafting of legal documents. Even when the case is being argued by other lawyers, junior to him in knowledge and experience, no chance is taken when it comes to the legal drafting process.
Say, for such lawyers who are getting loads of such assignments, would they be able to do it alone? No, they won’t. This is why most of such drafting is done by their juniors and the senior advocates vet the draft for its accuracy and effectiveness.
So, if such a senior advocate is looking for an intern or a junior, what do you think is one of the most important legal skills to stand out and get noticed? Obviously, the one who knows legal drafting to start with.
Break into the in-house legal world
If you are interested in corporate law, legal drafting is something you cannot do without. As an in-house lawyer, you are not expected to go to the court and stand in front of the judge every day. That’s not your job.
Your job is basically three-pronged in nature:
- Answer the legal questions that are posed in the day-to-day functioning of the business
- Prepare the paperwork to facilitate the smooth functioning of the business
- Manage all outside lawyers and check if they are doing their work right
All of these involve a lot of writing and drafting. When you work with outside lawyers, you will check their drafting for accuracy and effectiveness.
You will often judge outside lawyers primarily based on the quality of their drafting because you will not see their arguments before judges in any case.
You would probably be expected to browse through multiple bare acts every single day and you would have to be ready to draft a wide range of legal documents — one day, it’s a leave and license agreement, and it’s an opinion on a shareholder’s agreement for the board on the other — and in most cases, you won’t be given enough time to learn it over the job as you do in litigation.
High demand in law firms
When you are joining a law firm as a junior associate, even in the litigation department, they don’t need you to start pleading in front of the judge right away. In fact, in a solicitor firm, they might not want you to appear before the judge ever.
Why? Because they would hire a counsel for that anyway.
Instead, your job profile would expect you to prepare “everything” required for the counsel to competently plead the case before the big chair. You would study the scope of the case, research relevant case laws and most importantly, prepare the legal documents—thus, the better you are at legal drafting, the more useful you are as an associate.
Start a freelancing career
Finally, whether you are a lawyer or a law student, being good at drafting legal documents can help you earn a few thousand rupees per month just from a handful of steady clients!
The good thing about this is you do not have to get out of your home even. Get in front of your laptop and just rap at that keyboard a few times, and that’s it. Work is done. Money in the bank.
The best way to approach this is to specialize in a particular niche and try to grow your expertise at drafting almost every possible document in that niche. The trick is to grow your market recognition to such an extent that you should be the go-to person for the job you specialize in.
How can LawSikho help me to rapidly improve my drafting skills?
It takes time and effort to reach this stage. But with the help of LawSikho, it might become a lot easier for you. Want to know how?
Talk to our career counsellors on 011 4084 5203 and ask them how you can make money as a freelancer.
Or you can comment below to this article with your phone number and a message “I want to make money as a freelancer.” Our counsellors will reach out to you.
If you do not focus on improving your legal drafting skills, I won’t say that you would not be able to avail the above opportunities, but it’s sure to get very hard for you.
Your competition might just be looking at this email right now and opting for our Introduction to Legal Drafting course this very instant.
Which areas require legal drafting skills the most?
This question is a bit of a trap. If you have this notion that you might need to learn legal drafting for a few chosen niches, you are taking the wrong approach.
What you rather need to cognize is that the need of legal drafting is EVERYWHERE in this profession.
Whether you are an independent practitioner or in-house lawyer, you must know how to expertly draft the most commonly used legal documents for two reasons:
You are either required to prepare it OR you must be smart enough to understand it.
As an in-house lawyer, you might have to draft that employment contract right from scratch and any error in it can lead to millions of rupees in fines and losses.
As a litigation lawyer, you might have to comprehend the scope of the bail petition at hand to bring forth potent counter statements.
Coming to the question of niches and drafting…
As a tech lawyer, you need to be well acquainted with e-book publishing agreement, music licence agreements and work-for-hire agreements.
As a corporate lawyer, mortgage deeds, SHAs, SSAs and asset sale agreements should be your staple diet.
As a media and entertainment lawyer, you should know how to draft a copyright notice and product placement agreements inside out.
What I am trying to suggest is that regardless of niches, legal drafting is something you just cannot dodge learning if you want to progress in your legal career. It lies at the heart of being a great lawyer who knows his work better than anyone else.
In fact, I would say that a true lawyer is someone who is a master of both written and verbal word…who can bend it like Beckham and shoot straight like Ronaldo as and when he needs it.
If your English is weak to start with, try this course first.
But for the scope of this article, you might be thinking, “how to take your legal drafting skills up a notch?”
And the answer lies below…
The best legal drafting course ever!
To start with, I was a lawyer (and before that, a law student) once, and I can honestly say, there are not many legal drafting courses out there.
And even if there were, they were not of quality.
That’s why LawSikho came up with the best legal drafting course ever.
Why is it the best? What makes it so unique?
While it teaches you some of the most commonly used legal documents to give you a headstart in your legal career, what’s so special about this course is that this focuses on building the RIGHT FOUNDATION to develop and nurture your legal drafting skills.
We are teaching you skills, not mere knowledge.
Starting from writing and researching to the basics of civil and criminal litigation…we will teach you the A to Z of legal drafting—our aim is to make you capable enough in order to take up any legal drafting tasks and complete it in the first attempt.
Are you a beginner at legal drafting? Need to build the foundation before moving on to our advanced drafting course?
Want to know more about the course? Let our admission team help you with the same.
Give us a call on 011 4084 5203 and ask to speak with an admission counsellor.
Or, comment below to this article with your phone number and a message, “I want to know more about the legal drafting course.” We will reach out to you.
To your success.
P. S. LawSikho is running hour-long webinars every day. Want to learn how to improve your learning skills? Prepare an LLM application to a foreign university? Career opportunities in new, upcoming areas of law? Don’t miss these high-quality webinars with industry and academic experts.
P. P. S. All our premium courses are covered under an unwavering 45 days full money-back guarantee.
After taking a course, if you feel like it is not working out for you, maybe you are not getting enough value out of it or it is not meeting your expectations, just get in touch with us. We will refund every rupee you paid for the course.
No questions asked, as long as the minimum requirements of the refund policy are fulfilled.
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