Legal Material

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Guideline for references and cross-references

When a part of a law is referred to, as here:
Personal information collected on this form is collected under the authority of section 26 (c) and (e) of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
you should include explanatory information showing what the law is about, instead of relying on section reference alne, as here:
We collect this personal information under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act Section 26 because it concerns our programs and activities (c), and it is necessary for planning and evaluating our programs and activities(e).

This example come from BC:
Direct sales contract — exemptions from application of the Act
5 (1) This section describes direct sellers that are, and circumstances in which direct sellers are, exempt from the application of sections 19 to 22 [required contents; direct sales contracts; direct sales contract — cancellation; credit agreement respecting direct sales contract] of the Act.

Evidence for legal language (or the lack of it)

Over the years, judges have tried to figure out what the legal writers intended their writing to mean. They evolved a set of tools to do this analysis: Statutory Interpretation. When we write in plain English, we intend the meaning to be so clear that judges don’t have to resort to these, sometimes contradictory, interpretations.

Professor Joseph Kimble discusses the "psuedo-precision of legalese" here: (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

Plain language: the underlying research, Karen Schriver slide presentation (pages 29–35).

The public speaks: an empirical study of legal communication
This is a study by Christopher Trudeau (@proftrudeau on Twitter) containing case studies from solicitors about using legal language.

Richmond vs HRA
A pharmaceutical company called Richmond took the Health Regulatory Authority to court because the website was confusing. A high court judge deemed the site 'unlawful' and ruled against the government. The site was cleared through a legal department. This set a precedent in the UK. Just because all the legal language is there, doesn't mean you can't be sued.

Plain English Campaign
The Plain English Campaign argues that legalese is unnecessary and does not do what it was intended to. 'The argument that clarity should be sacrificed for a document to be comprehensive does not stand up.'

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