Why do lawyers still communicate in meaningless mumbo jumbo?

A legal notice in my local newspaper today says it all.

I’d normally consign this sort of stuff to this blog’s Jargon Bin where you can enjoy many more classic examples of the genre.  This one’s a cracker and worth quoting in full.  Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.  I repeat the text, grammar and layout as closely as WordPress allows.  The italics are mine so you can see where the nonsense starts and ends.

FORM OF WARRANT OF CITATION

IN FAMILY ACTION

Court Ref. No: xyz123

Aberdeen on the [date – over a month ago]

Grants Warrant to cite the Defender upon a period of notice of 21 days by publication in the Aberdeen Press and Journal, newspaper of an advertisement as nearly as may be in accordance with Form G3 as set out in the ct of Sederunt (Sheriff Court Ordinary Cause Rules) 1993 and Appoints her if she intends to defend, to lodge a Notice of Intention to Defend with the Sheriff Clerk at, Aberdeen Sheriff Court, Castle Street, Aberdeen.  Within the said period of notice after such publication.

Grants Warrant to intimate this initial writ upon the Defender’s next of kin, Susan Smith, [address].

Dispenses with intimation by Form F9 upon the said child, Fred Brown, born [date], due to his tender years.

Rule 5.6(1)(a) NOTICE TO JANE BROWN

In Causa JOHN BLACK, c/o HM Prison [name]

[address]

PURSUER

Against JANE BROWN whose present whereabouts are unknown but who was last known to reside at [address]

DEFENDER

Court ref. no xyz123

An action has been raised at Sheriff Court Aberdeen by John Black, Pursuer, calling as a defender Jane Brown whose last known address was [address].  If Jane Brown wishes to defend the action she should immediately contact the sheriff clerk at Aberdeen Sheriff Court from whom the service copy initial writ may be obtained.  If she fails to do so decree may be granted against her.

Signed

Solicitor for the pursuer,

[address]

So what’s that all about?  I think I can just about guess the general thrust from the last paragraph.  But it is a guess and an imperfect one at that.

What’s wrong with it in detail?  Where do you start?

  • jargon
  • obscure and archaic legal language
  • long sentences
  • words between full stops that do not make up sentences
  • other incorrect punctuation
  • meaningless abbreviations
  • poor layout.

Whose fault is it?

Well don’t blame the newspaper.  They always offer a proof copy to advertisers.

If the solicitor concerned had a choice of words and could have expressed this more clearly s/he needs to get their act together.

If they had no choice and statute or regulation require precisely these words to be used the country’s parliamentarians need to pull their collective finger out and bring the language into the 21st century.

It may be difficult to think of pursuers (sic) and defenders as customers for legal services but they are and they deserve better.

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