September 08, 2004

Legal Reading Pet Peeves

I read a lot from my law school books, and I've noticed that a lot of stuff in there pisses me off, so I'm going to start a journal of my legal reading pet peeves.

1. The needless and frustrating lack of commas in statues and opinions. Perhaps I missed some sort of explanation on the first day, but I really don't see why clauses that are obviously meant to be separate from the main import of the sentence don't have commas around them to indicate that they're currently talking about an exception or example. Not only does this piss me off because I think it's just bad writing, but I always have to go back and re-read the sentence again and add my own commas so it actually makes sense. See the next section for an example.

2. Statutes and opinions always seem to use "which" when I (and apparently others) think they should use "that". This is something people do all the time in writing that just irks me. I had to learn this rule growing up and it makes me mad when people mess it up. I guess there has been a style shift over the years, so that they're basically interchangeable now, but I still contend that it's wrong to say, for example, "a reply to an offer which purports to be an acceptance but contains additional or different terms which do not materially alter the terms of the offer constitutes an acceptance..." Perhaps one of the reasons I see such a sad lack of commas in legal writing is that they (to my mind) use "which" improperly so often. I was taught "which" is always preceded by a comma, making the restrictive clause that modifies the preceding noun separate from the rest of the sentence. Also note there is no comma before "but" or before "constitutes an acceptance" signaling that the restrictive clause modifying "offer" has ended.

3. Dicta. Nuf' said.

4. Here's a list of my least favorite words that I encounter too often:


  • unconscionability

  • extraterritoriality

  • circuity

  • impracticability

  • constitutionality

  • extraconstitutional

  • extrajurisdictional

5. Concurring opinions. Why, God, why?!

I should get back to reading...

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Comments

Here here. I thoroughly concur. Though I'm still drunk from BOB, so my analysis of grammar should be taken with a grain of salt.

Annoying grammar should be the numero uno complaint about law school (other than lack of hot guys and all that work and shit). But BOB should be the reason why all lawyers want to go to Hastings :)

Posted by: Erica at September 9, 2004 07:16 PM

I second that! I second which! But I do think that people use those words in the wrong place, which often causes me to think that they are stupid or lazy, which is not necessarily the case, if they are , in fact, not well informed.

But really, why the lack of commas?

Posted by: cody at September 9, 2004 10:15 PM

BOB does rock, more than making up for the poor grammar. I think a lot of people think that "which" just sounds more smart and formal than "that", but I think they each have their place and it sounds smarter to use words properly than to use big words. As for the lack of commas, there's just no real excuse for that other than an attempt to make the law more difficult to read. That isn't so bad b/c it keeps attorney salaries high, which is good for me... if I ever become an attorney...

Posted by: Kristina at September 10, 2004 09:33 AM

It's been a while, but I've finally found something that I have to read often enough that it's finally begun to piss me off. When a statute or provision has a list of criteria that must be met for that statute/provision to apply or not, why the hell does the WTO Panel/Commission have to go on for 3-4 (long) paragraphs about the importance of whether they're connected by "and" or "or". I mean, I realize that when the last element has an "and" before it that all the elements must be met and that an "or" indicates that any of them will do. I also think it's fairly obvious that, either way, you have to consider each element individually and that each element has its own incredibly over-complicated interpretation and caveats. So thanks, WTO Panel for explaining what "and" and "or" mean to me again because I really didn't pick that up along the way to law school.

Posted by: Kristina at April 28, 2005 08:40 AM
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