While sitting across from S at a coffee shop, I’m sort of reading and sort of eavesdropping on the college-aged couple next to us. Their conversation touches on a variety of important topics, ranging from bathing suits to utility bills. But what really caught my attention was their use of the phrase, “strong-arm robbery.”
They wonder, and for good reason, what is the difference between “robbery” and “strong-arm robbery.” Was the robber someone of particular strength? Was his other arm weak?
I want to interject and tell them that it’s just theft done with force, but they find the answer on Google within seconds. The male in the couple takes issue with the fact that a robbery is defined with a hyper-technical definition. For instance, he dwells on the portion of the definition describing robbery as the taking of another’s property with the “intent to permanently or temporarily deprive” them of that property.
The whole conversation, again still eavesdropping, reminds me of an Above The Law article that focused on 20, or rather twenty (20) lawyerisms. The gist of the article is that lawyers use unnecessarily complicated words or phrases for no particular purpose, except that it’s done that way.
The number 1 lawyerism, is the use of “pursuant to.” I have to admit, I love “pursuant to.” In fact, I might be enemy #1 when it comes to “pursuant to.” It sounds smart and, quite frankly, whenever I’m unsure how to start a sentence in a brief, I try to throw in a “purusant to.” Point is, I’d sound much more like a human if I just used “under” or “following.”
Other offenses include spelling out a number only to use the digits in parenthesis. For example, sometimes when I write a brief, I require four (4) Advil. This type of writing can only serve two objectives. First, it insults the reader. OMG! Thank goodness he put (4) in parenthesis or else I wouldn’t be able to read four. Second, it shows just how type A lawyers can get. This contract will not be enforced if I don’t write out the number twice. Good thing I wrote that number (#) out.
So, even though, I find myself a persistent violator of numerous lawyersisms (I’m not giving up “aforementioned” either), I kind of have to agree with the aforementioned college-aged couple. I’ve read some briefs that are so verbose that I can’t even understand what the other side is arguing, which kind of makes me wonder if that is just their strategy. However, if some lawyers just said, this is my argument, here is why I’m right, this is what I want, we could probably save some time (and money). And that would be nice, or cordially accepted with gracious appreciation.