How to write an email like a lawyer

As a competent lawyer, you're going to have to write crisp and dynamic emails in direct English. Here's how you do that.

How to write an email like a lawyer

Good lawyers should have the talent to communicate confidently in spoken and written English. If you can do this consistently, your work as a lawyer will be much easier. Clients will understand you and colleagues will respect you.


Unfortunately, we see time and again that lawyers struggle with their legal writing skills with poorly written emails the rule rather than the exception. In this article, we look at some of the areas that you have to improve to write great emails.


When writing an email, you should keep three areas in your mind: tone, clarity and style.


Tone

Know your reader and adjust your language accordingly. A client will have less knowledge of legal English than a lawyer, for example.


Clarity

You must remain consistent in your use of language. One misplaced word or incorrect tense choice damages the impact of the email.


Style

While emails are typically short, they can still be written with some elan. Short sentences and dynamic verbs can convey your message fluently and with style.


What lawyers do when writing emails

In addition to those areas mentioned above, you also need to pay attention to the following points.


Be less formal than usual

Unless your law firm's style guide mandates it, you can use first names in your emails and even drop the 'dear' that you would usually use to start a letter. You can be more conversational too.


Be direct

If you can be less formal then you can also be more direct. There is no time for you to write 'perhaps' or 'maybe' because the reader is scanning through your email at warp speed. Stay with short sentences, avoid adverbs and pick the right verbs for each sentence.


Stick to plain English

While adding 'heretofore' in an essay may get you a few extra marks, it won't help in an email. Use general words and expressions where you can and avoid terms that may require a dictionary to define.


Short sentences

There is frequent debate about the length of sentences. The famous legal writing expert Bryan Garner says that sentence should be a maximum of 20 words while others maintain that you can go beyond that. You should aim to mix your sentences up with the majority of them being brisk.


Mention if you are adding attachments

Using the phrase 'please find attached' is pretty much the law nowadays - and don't forget to actually attach them! If you are writing a letter then you should write 'please find enclosed'.


For more on improving your legal writing skills, contact Legal English UK.