Unnecessary Lawyerisms

These aren’t always confined to lawyers; they permeate the e-mail and speech of law clerks, legal assistants and students.

The phrase Please be advised that … has to be one of the most leaden openings of all time. Cut to the chase and just convey the actual information, without the pointless preamble.

And advise in this context is, well, ill-advised. On stylistic grounds, for one. It’s pompous to say Please advise me if … when you could just say Please tell me if … or Let me know if ...

It’s also not a great idea to extend your use of the words advice and advise beyond that which is legal advice in the strict sense.

Oft-seen in emails from harried assistants: We urgently need a student to attend at the client’s office to …

Go to would be much more effective in putting a fire under the articling students.

Do dockets still read attendance to [whatever activity]? Probably time to modernise the accounting software.

Dictated but not read by …
We don’t send letters the way we used to, but new software has revitalised the practice of dictation.

As a result, the old dictated/not read formulation is still seen on correspondence – both digital and printed.

It was never good: it conveys a message of ‘I’m too busy (or, more to the point, disorganised) to take proper care’.

One research lawyer in Toronto once jokingly used the phrase to describe a loose-leaf text of inconsistent quality, ostensibly by a senior partner at another firm but largely the work of successive generations of articling students.

In any circumstance, don’t write (or practise) this way. Consider, check, proofread, revise. (And write your own material.)

Neil Guthrie (@guthrieneil)

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