Seeing Through Legalese: More Essays on Plain Language
by Joseph Kimble
Reviewed by Craig Lewis
In the preface to his third book on legal writing, and his second collection of essays on the topic, Seeing Through Legalese: More Essays on Plain Language, Joseph Kimble--professor emeritus at Western Michigan University's Cooley Law School--tells readers that he hopes we enjoy the book, learn something from it, agree with some of its ideas, and smile from time to time reading it. Check, check, check, and check. The collection is what the author wants all writing, and legal writing in particular, to be: well written (which is to say written and organized so that it can be easily understood), informative, and appropriately light.
Professor Kimble champions using plain language in legal writing. So it's fitting that this work--compiled from essays he's written since 2006--is laid out in a logical and easy-to-understand fashion. It is divided into three parts. The first part is a collection of essays discussing the Advisory Committee on the Federal Rules' work editing the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the Federal Rules of Evidence for style. It contains side-by-side comparisons of previously existing rules and suggested style edits along with the rationale for adopting plain language over legalese: 'shall' can signal any of 'must,' 'may,' 'is,' or something else, and organizing ideas into numbered or bulleted lists makes the ideas easier to understand, to name two.
The second part presents some of Professor Kimble's essays on legal writing generally (it's called "On Legal Writing Generally," so we can all follow along). Professor Kimble responds to criticisms of plain language...