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Ricardo-María Jiménez, Professor of Law at the Universitat Internacional de Catalunya and partner external of project 'Public discourse' del Institute for Culture and Society

Simple legal language

Mon, 04 Apr 2016 18:21:00 +0000 Published in La Vanguardia

"Simple soccer is the most beautiful, but the most difficult thing is to play soccer in a simple way". This sentence by Cruyff contains a truth: a simple style brings effective and beautiful results. Although, paradoxically, achieving this is challenge complicated.

2016 marks the fifth anniversary of the development of the report modernization of legal language. To update that language, a group of experts prepared this excellent and comprehensive report whose goal was to provide a recommendations to improve citizens' understanding of the justice system.

And how do we get these recommendations across to legal professionals? Any ambitious long-term goal deadline would involve reviewing how writing is taught in primary and secondary schools. More immediately, the legal community needs to be made aware that improving the legal speech is not only in the interest of citizens. Lawyers are the first to want to be understood, since clarity of exposition is a "weapon of mass persuasion".

Although some universities dedicate subjects to oral and written expression, perhaps all centers should offer them. On the other hand, although materials for teaching legal writing are beginning to be proposed, this is a line that can be reinforced by groups of research that are working in this field (such as those of professors Estrella Montolío and Cristina Carretero, among others).

From this rostrum I suggest two proposals on this anniversary. First, that law students and novice and expert jurists read the report and its field programs of study . Second, that the Royal Academies of the language and of Jurisprudence and Legislation join forces to create a commission to deal with legal language, as advocated by the academic and Full Professor Luis María Cazorla.

Lázaro Carreter, a linguist, wrote in 2001 that legal language was wilted and wilted; however, if we manage to apply the recommendations, the legal language will be clear, simple, precise and correct, and the legal argumentation will be solid and in line with the truth. It is a high level challenge . As Cruyff knows well, there is nothing more difficult than simplification.