Foster’s six defenses for legal obscurity

“There are many bad reasons for legal writing that is impenetrable to the layman (e.g., where writing is made impenetrable in order to necessitate recourse to lawyers which would otherwise be unnecessary, or where impenetrability is a consequence of antiquated language perpetuated purely out of sentimental conservatism).”

– writes Charles Foster (co-recipient of the 2016 Ig Nobel Biology Prize). Nevertheless, he also alerts us to possible defenses for legal obscurity. Six in all – which are:

▪ IT CAN CONVEY MEANING SUCCINCTLY

▪ IT ENABLES NUANCED REGULATION OF COMPLEX SOCIETIES

▪ IT CAN HELP TO CONVEY MEANING ACCURATELY, AND THUS AVOID LITIGATION

▪ IT CAN ENCOURAGE LAY PEOPLE TO TAKE LEGAL ADVICE IN CIRCUMSTANCES WHERE THAT IS BENEFICIAL

▪ IT ENCOURAGES EFFICIENT COMMUNICATION BETWEEN LAWYERS

▪ IT EMPHASIZES THE AUTHORITY AND OBJECTIVITY OF THE LAW

See: ‘In Defense of Legal Obscurity’ published in the journal AJOB Neuroscience, volume 8, 2017, Pages: 39-41.

For another view on language clarity (or otherwise) see ‘Say no to unclear language, don’t believe the hype’ by Anu Vallinkoski,  as featured in the Journal of the University of Helsinki, 24.2.2017.

2 Responses to “Foster’s six defenses for legal obscurity”

  1. GoMovies Says:

    Encourage efficient communication between lawyers

  2. GoMovies Says:

    Encourage efficient communication between lawyers!!!

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