Irlafarc! Surveying the Language of Legal Writing
Judith M. Stinson
Arizona State University (ASU) - Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law
University of Nevada, Las Vegas, William S. Boyd School of Law
Maine Law Review, Vol. 56, p. 239, 2004
Language, like law, is a living thing. It grows and changes. It both reflects and shapes the communities that use it. The language of the community of legal writing professors demonstrates this process. Legal writing professors, who stand at the heart of an emerging discipline in the legal academy, are creating new terms, or neologisms, as they struggle to articulate principles of legal analysis, organizational paradigms conventional to legal writing, and other legal writing concepts.
This new vocabulary can be both beneficial and detrimental. It can be beneficial because it expands the substance of an emerging discipline. It also can be harmful, however, because not everyone understands the new terms, and that lack of understanding can hinder communication about legal writing. The challenge for legal writing professors becomes how to improve understanding and thereby enhance communication without limiting the expansion of the new discipline.
One of the first steps in meeting that challenge is to study the state of the language of legal writing today. We need to know more about whether legal writing professors are creating a new professional vocabulary, and whether the language they use in teaching legal writing fosters the kind of sophisticated discourse about writing that will be helpful to other users of that language - students, lawyers, judges, and law professors. To that end, we created a survey to gather information about the language legal writing professors across the country use in their legal writing classes, and this article details the results.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 60
Keywords: Legal writing, law professors, language
Date posted: July 9, 2009 ; Last revised: October 22, 2009
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