Last Friday, the summer associates and I participated in a drafting seminar led by Real Estate Practice Group partners, Tim DeKeyser and Marty Schwartz. This seminar focused on the importance of clear and concise prose that is free of legalese, ambiguities, and inconsistencies. Typically, in oral conversation, real estate lawyers are able to express a particular position or thought clearly and succinctly. However, when it comes to drafting legal documents, legalese seems to be the prevailing standard of communication.
For those unfamiliar with the concept of legalese, let me take you back to your 9th grade English class. It’s 9:00 am on a Monday and your reading Shakespeare’s Hamlet that was published in the 17th Century. Frustratingly, didn’t you ever wonder: who on earth would ever speak like this? Well to answer your question, many lawyers still do—particularly when it comes to legal writing. Many times, legal agreements begin with a preliminary statement referred to as “Witnesseth,” continue with several “Whereas” clauses, and conclude with “In Witness Whereof.” Affidavits regularly are concluded with the statement: “Further Affiant Sayeth Naught.”
Tim and Marty are on a mission to eliminate legalese from the practice of law. Legal concepts can be communicated by lawyers in words that regular people understand. After Tim’s presentation, the summer associates and I put our new found skills to work as we revised contractual provisions that were plagued with ambiguities and legalese. Working through these examples with Bilzin Sumberg partners was an impactful learning experience. As our summer program concludes in a few days, I cannot help but feel an immense amount of gratitude to Bilzin Sumberg for the opportunity. This summer, I was certainly proud to be judged by the company I kept.