Harry Hackney is pleased to announce that he has been certified by the Florida Supreme Court to mediate circuit court civil cases. He is available to mediate cases throughout the Fifth Judicial Circuit (Marion, Lake, Citrus, Sumter, and Hernando counties) plus Orange, Volusia, and Seminole counties.
I try to write as much as I can in plain English. As a lawyer, that isn’t always easy. Lawyers use five words with five syllables where a single two syllable word would do for many reasons — They don’t know any better; i.e., that’s the way it has always been done. They’re afraid they’ll miss some nuance or meaning. They’re lazy or their client won’t pay for better; i.e., the form they used as a template was written that way or the client won’t pay for a decent revision. (I want a lease tomorrow and I want it cheap.) They think it makes them sound like a “real lawyer.” Other lawyers will criticize them and accuse them of being a poor lawyer if their writing isn’t impenetrable. Sometimes it is an artifact of the negotiation process with each side adding words to “spell it out a little better” or to “clarify a point.” The end result is a morass that is neither spelled out nor clear the day a dispute arises. Here are some particularly egregious examples from The Legalese Hall of Shame. I’m really terrified by the thought of a four page 1,000 word sentence. Is such a thing even possible?
I believe that impenetrable legalese creates more problems than it solves. It can actually breed litigation when documents are so lengthy and ambiguous that they can be read a dozen different ways. It may take a third party in the form of a judge or jury to decide what it means, and they may not agree with the litigants. More on this tomorrow.