Lawyers Are Special People. How Does the Profession Influence Their Oral and Written Speech Habits?

Lawyers are special people, first of all, on account of all that bulk of knowledge they have both to keep and to remember item by item, if need be. Obviously, their practice of public and person-to-person speaking has its own rules, too.

After some time, lawyer’s speech is overgrown with an arabesque of terms, ornate sentences, with foam of clichés and special words of introduction on top of it. A lawyer who does not like to, and cannot talk, is, as it were, like a surgeon who is afraid of blood. Well-developed (sometimes, over-developed) rhetorical skills are the bread and butter of a professional. They bring customers, help to win cases and to achieve a reputation. Let us once again refer to the medical professions: a lawyer’s speech is like a doctor’s handwriting: confusing, complicated, and utterly incomprehensible for a layman.

Here are a few typical features of lawyers’ speech that we have found after reading and linguistic analysis of some regulatory documents prepared by highly reputable members of the profession:

1. Say simple things in a complex way. Sentences composed by lawyers contain 40-60 words on average. The more experienced is the lawyer, the closer he is to Leo Tolstoy, the master of fine words.

  • 193 words – the longest sentence in Tolstoy’s ‘War and Peace’.
  • 190 слов – Item 1, or the 1st sentence of the Order of the Ministry of Transportation No.348 dated November 12, 2013 ‘On approval of the procedure of performance by motor way owners of monitoring of observation of the technical requirements and conditions to be fulfilled during construction and reconstruction within the limits of road side of motor ways…’. And this is not the limit!

2. The more complex is your predicate, the more weight it has.

3. The number of nouns going one by one, usually with an ‘of’, is directly proportional to the pace at which the customer will hurry to see the lawyer for explanation and help: <…> the procedure of performance by motor way owners of monitoring of observation of the requirements and conditions <…>
<…>within the period of delay of execution of sentences<…>

4. The passive voice must prevail: ‘is paid, is obliged to, is considered, is submitted’.

5. A lawyer is easily detected by the affectionate use of participles I and II – one by one, time and again:
<…> an organization issuing the above mass media shall be subjected to any other forms of liability set forth by the legislation of the Russian Federation including a warning.

6. No tautology is worse than tautology itself:
<…>In case the writ of execution is submitted directly by the recoveror to a bank or any other credit agency, then, since they are authorized to execute writs of execution related to recovery of funds<…>
<…> not later than the day preceding the day of voting, and on the day preceding the day of voting and on the day of voting<…>.

7. Lawyers never hesitate to use repeatedly words and phrases that some people derogatory call ‘bureaucratese’: ‘the present Law’, ‘subject to the use/submission of’, ‘in furtherance of’, etc.

8. Lawyers are clever, and so they want other people to use their brain a little in order to try and understand what it’s all about: <…> for a successor, all actions that have been performed prior to his/her entering into the legal relations shall be mandatory to the extent to which they were mandatory for the party to these legal relations, which the successor noticed <…>.
Well, did YOU understand it?!

9. Do you care to check if you are ready to become a lawyer? Open any act of regulations, choose any sentence, read it till the end and relate the main idea. Do not spare yourself; choose sentences with more than 10-15 similar parts. Only the real potential lawyers will pass this test – while some people will fail it even after five tries..

As a conclusion…

In the process of writing this article, we realized that the average person hardly ever understand what is written in the law/regulatory documents or explanation for it. But Imperitia pro culpa habetur (ignorance and misunderstanding the law does not relieve from responsibility).

read Russian translation