Ask any senior lawyer and they would tell you that in the legal profession, success in oratory is derived from and preceded by flawless written communication.
Every legal notice you serve, every reply you send, every petition you file in the court, every legal document relevant to a case, builds up your case.
Every word you write and exchange with the opposite party eventually decides whether you will win or lose the case.
Even before your counsel or you stand before the judge and open your mouth.
Want to know how important every legal draft is?
You will get to know from the number of revisions it goes through in a good chamber or a decent law firm.
While one change might be proposed by one lawyer, some other lawyer would propose some other change in the draft. Every line is vetted for its accuracy and effectiveness. Every word is checked and rechecked multiple times for its contextual meaning and impact.
Everything you write will be dissected, interpreted and turned around on its head by the other side later on. Intentions that you have never thought of may be read into the language. Every minor contradiction will be pointed out and used against you.
You do not only write what you want to convey but you need to anticipate how it will be used by the other side against you, and you need to write down even what you do not intend to say, clarifying every possible interpretation.
Sometimes, you cannot leave any legal ambiguity in your drafting, and at other times, you will strategically leave things ambiguous. Sometimes, you will lay traps with your drafting.
Think of it like a brick house. One brick laid over another. Any loose ends and the whole thing might fall down all of a sudden.
More importantly, if the house is finished, you might not even understand where to fix until it falls down.
Amid all the legal documents that form part of a case brief, is it possible to figure out which one might turn out to be the weak link? Not unless the opponent’s lawyer points it out during the proceeding.
No point fixing it at the point. The case is lost!
This is why the ability to draft flawless legal documents is so important even more than your oratory prowess inside the courtroom.
How do you learn to draft like this?
Bet your ass no law school is teaching any of this.
The only way people used to learn such drafting is from observing really good seniors.
Unfortunately, if you do not get a very good senior who spends a lot of time correcting your drafting, you will never learn any of this.
There may be some really smart people who learn it from experience, through trial and error.
Rest of the lawyers, a vast majority, fumble with drafting, and quite surely never make it as a successful lawyer due to this skill gap.
If you want to learn such legal drafting skills, please get in touch with us at LawSikho. We have legal drafting courses that teach you the most advanced drafting strategies, and let you practice while our expert lawyers give you feedback and personal coaching to improve your legal drafting.
Skills needed to master legal drafting
Legal drafting is a highly in-demand legal skill, almost a must-have for ALL kinds of legal professionals, whether you are an in-house counsel or an independent practitioner. Even in LPOs, drafting is a sought after skill.
The ultimate question for everyone who struggles to string together words to form something of meaning and worth is, “How should I start?”
When I started out in the profession, one of my mentors told me something that I remember to this day. The person (an experienced advocate) said that the legal drafting skill is essentially composed of five different soft skills. If you lack one of them, you might not be able to create a high-quality legal draft.
He also said, if you master every one of them individually and figured out how to activate all of them at the same time, you will become a master at legal drafting, without a doubt.
Here are they as listed below:
Want to know how learning legal drafting can literally transform your career with more legal work, higher billable hourly rate and more money, even while you are working from your home in your pyjamas?
Click on the Play button to watch the video below where Abhyuday Agarwal, COO & Co-founder of LawSikho, discusses the benefits of legal drafting at length.
Writers are born, not made? Not true at all.
Though I have been writing from a very young age, I can vouch for the fact that writing is a learnable skill. At LawSikho, we have trained over a hundred writers and most of them started with one common admission, “I don’t know how to write.”
Ramanuj says writing is the art of clear thinking. If you can think clearly and in a structured manner, you can not but write well.
And this is the first must-have skill to master legal drafting. As a legal draftsman, you must possess superior writing skills and the best way to improve your writing skills is by writing more and more, more than you ever did in your entire life.
Writing is the ability to make sense by writing down one word at a time until it reaches over a thousand words and even more. Over time, that one thousand will become four thousand and then ten thousand, and finally, fifty thousand one day.
Now, I don’t expect you to become a novelist any time soon. But what I mean is, as you develop your writing ability, your ability to draft legal documents will improve as well.
And you need to write correct english. Writing grammatically wrong English, in a language that is not appropriate, will immediately destroy your credibility as a lawyer. Please work on your language accuracy, grammar and syntax, if there is any scope to improve.
Trying to draft well while your English is poor is like trying to win a boxing match with one hand tied behind your back.
You are not a good writer if you cannot edit your own writing properly. To be able to create the perfect legal draft, you must learn to remove every little nuisance from your writing until nothing except pure quality remains.
Editing and review would be the most critical skill whether you are drafting a legal notice, or a contract, or even a police complaint.
When you are drafting a statement of claim for a thousand crore arbitration, and you have to help arbitrators make sense of thousands of pages of documents, this skill becomes even more useful and valuable.
Editing is nothing but making sure that your writeup is “making sense the way it should”. It’s not just about using the right words, cutting out the grammatical and spelling mistakes, tweaking the sentence structure and even checking the punctuation at the end of a sentence. While those things are important, they are just elementary.
The next level is to think whether you are doing a good job at conveying what you want to convey. Are you sure that the argument you are making will be understood and appreciated?
What could be the counter argument? Can you neutralize such counter arguments while you are drafting by adding a few words here and there? Is there any way you can make it more obvious and difficult to ignore?
Is there any way you can simplify a complex argument or a complicated factual matrix?
Simplicity is a great virtue in legal drafting. Often we do greater damage to our legal documents by writing too much irrelevant content. Am I writing a lot of nonsense that is making my critical points less obvious or burying them under inconsequential issues?
Chipping away at the inconsequential until only the most important stuff remains is a very important tool of a legal draftsman.
As Stephen King famously said, “Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.”
Didn’t I tell you already that a legal draft would often undergo multiple revisions?
The first draft is seldom what it can potentially be crafted into. Your first draft is like a piece of raw diamond. You need to cleave it, brute it and polish it to make it finally shine in all its glory.
It will take some time to develop this skill before you start drafting like a pro.
Do you think lawyers are salesmen in disguise? I do.
The judge is their potential customer and their point of view is their product. What these salesmen try to do is sell their logic to the person sitting on the big chair.
For me, this is amazing because it is like selling computers to Bill Gates. The judge is not a naive prospect. He knows more than you. He holds more power than you. He might also be moodier than you.
To be able to convince such a person around to what you believe in, you need to be persuasive beyond all measure and have so strong an influence as cannot be ignored.
Now imagine if you were to achieve the same effect through your written words. It’s like making a woman fall in love with you through a love letter. Can you do it?
Well, you have to if you want to become good at legal drafting. In fact, every piece of legal writing is expected to have that impact on the reader, that is, the judge.
Applied legal knowledge
I once interned under a High Court judge. One day, he asked me to write a legal draft. Since I was good at writing, I thought I would be able to create an immaculate draft without much effort. How stupid I was!
Was my draft devoid of typographical errors? Yes, of course.
Was the level of English good enough? Yes, it was.
Was it concise and clear? Yes, yes, it was.
Wait, did it make any sense as a “legal” document? Oops!
The stare that I got from the judge, whoa, I would remember that till the day I die. I knew I let him down completely.
That’s when he told me that what actually makes a legal draft a “legal” draft is a strong grasp of legal intelligence behind it.
As a novice lawyer or a law student, it might be invisible to you but two versions of a legal document might seem to be equal in almost every sense but they would extract totally different reactions from the judge because one would be “legally” superior to the other.
The first and foremost prerequisite to learning legal drafting is to have a thorough understanding of the law. Unless you understand legal complications, you won’t be able to draft anything that is of value. Period.
Not only law, you need a complete grasp over the facts regarding which you are drafting. Masterful use of facts in drafting, and with application of law that leads the readers to a clear and inevitable conclusion is the holy grail of legal drafting.
It is one thing to have legal knowledge, and quite another to be able to reflect that in your legal drafting.
Analytical and critical thinking
Last but not least, what separates a great writer from a good one?
The good one conducts extensive research on the topic, collects more information than anyone ever did, and puts forth a cogent piece with all the information presented in a sensible manner.
The great one does the same but presents only as much information as is required. The great one writes with an “agenda” if you know what I mean.
And they are able to think beyond the obvious. The ability to think up different situations, explanations and possibilities is a very important legal drafting skill.
Be it in contract drafting or writing arguments for a murder trial, this is the most important skill.
For example, in a criminal case, all you need to do is introduce a plausible doubt about the veracity of the claims of the prosecutor.
For this, you need to possess above-average analytical and critical thinking skill to be able to recognize what needs to be added and whatnot, and how best to combine those together for a clear and forceful argument.
The entire world may be seeing something, but the best lawyers start by thinking, well, is there something the world is missing out?
And that leads to some amazing drafting.
The first step to learning legal drafting
The most effective way to start your journey to become a master legal draftsman is, in my opinion, to start writing… anything at all. You can start by writing short legal articles.
Gradually, you need to shift to long-form article writing. This is like net practice for legal drafting.
One, it would help you brush up on your legal knowledge.
Two, writing more and more would help you learn how to gather your thoughts and express them in an organized manner. Writing helps you get outside your mind and present it for the rest of the world to see or read.
You have heard about hand-eye coordination? The connection between your eyes and your hand? This can be considered fingers-mind coordination. Your fingers express what your mind thinks. This is a far subtler connection than the hand-eye one and also difficult to evolve.
The only way to do it is to write, write and write some more.
We at LawSikho always ask our students to write articles regularly. They might be interested in litigation or might want to break into the corporate in-house legal team. It does not matter.
We know, once you learn how to draft properly, you are treated as top talent wherever you land up. That starts with writing articles, simple ones at first and slowly ramping up the difficulty level over time.
Also, we highly recommend that you take up a drafting course from us. It could be contract drafting. Or an introduction to legal drafting. You can also go for more specialised drafting courses – such as civil drafting, arbitration-related drafting or criminal drafting. Even NCLT or SAT drafting. You can go industry-wise and learn how to draft documents needed for real estate or trademark litigation or media and entertainment industry.
If you want to know more about how we train our students and interns, give us a call on 011 4084 5203 or comment below to this article with your phone number and with the message, “I want to know more about article writing.”
We will call you back.
Or better, join our legal drafting course instead
We recently launched an introductory course on legal drafting for law students and lawyers who are interested to improve their legal drafting skills.
How is it different from the other course on contract drafting, negotiation and dispute resolution? That is advanced in its scope and it focuses more on providing you with a contract drafting practice by making you work on over 100 commercial contracts!
Introduction to Legal Drafting course helps you nurture the fundamentals of drafting (with a handful of practical assignments as well). The primary aim of this course is to build the necessary skills required to be able to master legal drafting for all sorts of legal documents, and in a short time.
This course is for those who want to get the basics right quickly in a month or two.
Once you learn those skills—those we discussed above, you will be able to draft almost any legal document effortlessly and with ease.
Whether you are a law student, a practising lawyer, an in-house counsel or a business person, this course can help you get acquainted with the most common legal documents and learn how to decipher and draft the same on your own.
A perfect start for your legal drafting journey, I must say.
Want to know more about this exclusive course? Give us a call on 011 4084 5203 or comment below with your phone number stating, “I want to know about the legal drafting course.” Our admission staff will reach out to you.
Legal drafting is one of the most vital legal skills to learn in today’s job climate.
What have you been doing to improve your legal skills?
To your success.
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