Helping Legal Writers Embrace Their Inner Salieri: Re-Vision is Just 'Seeing Again'

Clarity, Vol. 70, November 2013

5 Pages Posted: 4 Dec 2013 Last revised: 20 Dec 2013

See all articles by Charles MacLean

Charles MacLean

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Date Written: December 3, 2013


The sublime perfection of Mozart’s compositions arose from his ability to present complex material clearly, cleanly, and without pretense or excess. Mozart’s compositions are accessible to all listeners. They do not require the listener to have had special training or experience. They do not presuppose that the listener has been exposed to some musical jargon or genre. The music “speaks” to everyone. And that is the goal for all legal writers – to speak to all legal readers. The writing must be accessible and clear regardless of each reader’s background or expertise. The writing must be pure essence without pretense. It must not force the reader to struggle to comprehend. It must not furrow the reader’s brow. That can all be condensed into one concept: Great legal writers make economic use of plain language. Now, reflect on that concept, and the legal writer will find that the concept applies to every type of legal writer. Although each sub-group of legal writers has its own needs and wants and its own level of expertise or experience, legal writing that is presented economically in plain language will ensure that clients are served and informed; judges are more likely to be persuaded; and partners and supervising attorneys are educated and advised.

All of this only requires that the legal writer re-vision, to see again with each reader’s eyes. But no matter the type of reader, plain language will better achieve the goal that the writer seeks. Plain legal language informs and advises without risk of inadvertent confusion. It persuades without furrowing the reader’s brow. Remember, we are Salieris, not Mozarts who can “simply [write] down music already finished in his head!” We must spend the time to re-vision and rewrite in plain legal language.

Keywords: Legal Writing, Lawyering Skills

Suggested Citation

MacLean, Charles, Helping Legal Writers Embrace Their Inner Salieri: Re-Vision is Just 'Seeing Again' (December 3, 2013). Clarity, Vol. 70, November 2013. Available at SSRN:

Charles MacLean (Contact Author)

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Register to save articles to
your library


Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics