Why can’t we write Legal Documents in Plain English

What is plain english and how is relevant to law?

Plain English is about presenting information so that it can be read once and understood for the intended audience. The information is clear and accurate and can be acted upon – this evolution has obviously missed the legal industry.

I have had to review many legal documents and it does frustrates me how complex they are. The other day I was handed a lease for a flat in London, there were some very complex terms in the lease, when we discussed these issues with a lawyer she explained the terms with the help of an example. Why were the documents not simple and easy to understand? It could have been, but do lawyers write in a complex way to protect their jobs?

The main features that we think could be improved in legal documents are avoiding writing in long sentences; a sentence does not increase credibility and the sentence does not need to cover several points. Concise sentences make legal documents easier to understand and interpret. If there are to many negatives or meanings it can be confusing, legal documents should not be complicated. Legal documents are formal documents, however they do not need to be written in a formal way.

We think that lawyers should keep in mind plain english core objective which is to be easy to understand for the intended audience. Obviously some aspects of law are harder to simplify however customer facing contracts such as the privacy policy and terms and conditions of a website should not be presented in capital letters and should not be thousands of words long.

Design in contracts is seldom considered. Why are contracts never designed perfectly to be photocopied and including illustrations? These features of a contract are rarely considered but all contracts are photocopied numerous times.