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Legal writing: learn how to write in plain English
About the course

Plain English legal drafting – learn how to write clear legal content today.

Plain language in legal content is nothing new. However, between pioneering examples such as The Citibank Promissory Note in the 1970s and the clear communication requirements in recent privacy laws, the challenges have changed. The question asked by legal drafters has shifted from ‘Is plain language possible?’ to ‘How can we best accomplish it?’.

This training will equip you with basic principles for writing legal content in plain language. It’s important that all stakeholders have a common understanding of plain language – otherwise plain-language efforts tend to be short-lived and difficult to sustain. Agreements quickly revert into their complex versions.

What you’ll learn

In these 12 hours of intensive training, plus assignments to do in your own time, you’ll learn the core skills of plain English. We work with the standard definition of plain language agreed by the main plain language associations (including PLAIN, Clarity and the Center for Plain Language):

A communication is in plain language if its wording, structure, and design are so clear that the intended readers can easily find what they need, understand what they find, and use that information.

In our training, we will reference four principles that flow from this definition:

  • The content is what the intended audience wants or needs to know
  • The audience can easily find the information that they need or want
  • The audience can understand the information
  • The audience can use the content

We will tackle some theory and background information – but we’ll focus on well-established practical techniques of how to use words, sentences and structure to transform legalese into plain language.

Course outline

The training will equip delegates with the core skills of legal writing in plain English, including:

  • what is plain language and how does it relate to the legal profession
  • ways to measure and assess documents for plain language
  • planning and structuring a contract, opinion, notice or other legal document
  • organising information for reader logic rather than traditional legal structure
  • structuring through informative headings and summaries
  • plain English basics for legal drafting at sentence and word-level
  • adapt the tone of plain-language content for legal documents.

For full course details, please contact us via the Enquire button, and we’d be happy to provide you with a full breakdown of modules and outcomes.

How you learn

The training is carried out by experienced tutors via live online classroom sessions for a maximum of five attendees. We run the training through video conferencing software (usually Zoom or Microsoft Teams) with WhatsApp as a back-up technology.

There are 12 hours of intensive training overall, delivered across two full-days or four half-days. We set practical exercises and assignments throughout the course, with a customised assignment at the end.

Our courses are interactive. We rely on your examples, input and discussion. This is adult-to-adult learning where:

  • we train a principle or technique
  • we show you an example of how it’s put into practice (preferably in a real example from your organisation)
  • you apply the principle or technique in a short exercise, which we discuss as a group
  • you do an assignment at home to reinforce the learning right away.

Who is this course for?

Our course is for anyone who writes legal content. We have trained attorneys, advocates, legal researchers, commissioners, solicitors, legal advisers and compliance professionals in plain legal language.

The course is suitable for legal and compliance teams in-house at organisations and for law firms.

All levels benefit from our course because:

  • often law schools teach drafting without the necessary focus on plain language
  • legal practitioners tend to fall into bad habits from following old-fashioned drafting conventions.

You will also gain a great deal from the course if you do not have legal or compliance qualifications but you are tasked with rewriting legal content in plain language.

For those more experienced in legal drafting, you may want to incorporate some of the optional advanced modules in the course. These vary in length and include options such as: how to create an assessment framework for plain language, user testing and inclusive language.

Please get in touch for further information on advanced modules via the Enquire button below.

What does it cost?

The price is €2,000 (excluding VAT). The course is for up to five delegates so it’s ideal for small businesses or for teams within large organisations. You’re also welcome to book as a group of individuals from different organisations. You pay for the course, and not for each person, so it’s better to take up all five places.

Further plain language training options

We also offer a number of other plain language courses, including:

If you are interested in any of these alternative courses, please email recruit@firehead.net and we’d be happy to provide you with further information.

Testimonials

More than 9,000 delegates from seven countries have already benefited from this plain language training. Here is some of their feedback:

“The practical exercises ensured we understood the theory. The group was small enough to ensure individual attention. It was great that it was tailor-made to legal drafting and the contracts we write.”

“The course made me realise how lawyers and ‘legal talk’ have alienated non-lawyers; how we lawyers have created chaos – but more work for litigators.”

“The course made me aware of the principles involved in plain language – that it is not dumbing down the language.”

Course type
Live online
Course duration
12 hours
Course date
Various
Cost
€2,000 for 5 people
Course tutor
Frances Gordon, Candice Burt

Frances has devoted her 20-year career to enabling people and organisations to communicate clearly. Frances is well-known as an advocate for plain language in the legal, financial and technology industries. With her help, many organisations have been able to transform ‘small print’ into useful, usable communication. Besides being founder of Simplified, she has held tenures at large banks, technology companies and fintechs.

Candice is a plain-language lawyer, who combines the rigour of legal writing with best practices in communication. Her focus area is legal and financial documents. She believes that even the most complex legal contract can and must be made accessible to its readers. Over the past 20 years, she has become known as an inspiring trainer and impressive conference speaker.

Contact us today to arrange your plain language course or for further information.
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