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What is Legal Writing? How to Become a Legal Writer? A Comprehensive Guide

Updated: Jun 12

Legal writing, at its core, is a specialized form of professional writing that is tailored specifically to the legal industry. Legal writing could include documents, from contracts, legal briefs, statutes, and judicial opinions.

Essential to the function and operation of law, it's a medium through which legal professionals articulate, argue, and interpret legal principles and issues.

Legal writing serves as the primary tool for lawyers to advocate for their clients, for judges to elucidate their rulings, and for scholars to contribute to the body of legal knowledge.

A well-crafted legal document can mean the difference between winning and losing a case, or between clarity and confusion in a legal issue.

And if all that’s not enough for you to consider legal writing seriously, think of the pay. Legal writers can make up to $200,000 per annum. The average pay is a respectable $58,000. But here’s the thing:

You don’t really have to be a full-time legal writer. You can simply be a freelance writer who also happens to be able to do legal writing. Freelance legal writing gigs pay pretty well and it’s honestly a skill that you should consider.

Ultimate guide to Legal Writing

And that’s what this blog is about. We’re going to look at what legal writing is, what are skills required for legal writing, how to become a legal writer, and some of the more important legal writing tools in the industry.

So, let’s get started.

What is legal writing?

Legal writing is a unique subset of professional writing, distinguished by its purpose, style, and language. It involves presenting complex legal information in a manner that is both understandable and compelling, often with the aim of advocating for a particular outcome, informing a legal decision, or persuading a specific audience.

Three objectives of legal writing

The objectives of legal writing can broadly be categorized as advocacy, informing, and persuading. Advocacy: arguing for a specific legal position or outcome, often in legal briefs or other court documents.

Informative: to provide clear, concise explanations of legal matters, as seen in advisory letters or legal opinions. Persuasive writing: to convince the reader to adopt a particular viewpoint, typically found in legal memorandums or negotiation letters.

The language of legal writing

The language used in legal writing is another defining aspect. Legal terminologies and phrases, often derived from Latin, are used to convey precise meanings that are widely understood within the legal community.

However, effective legal writing also requires the ability to translate this "legalese" into plain, understandable language when the audience demands it.

As with any writing, clarity, conciseness, and persuasiveness are important in legal writing. As a legal writer, you need to break down complex ideas into language that your audience understands. Given that most legal writing is business related, there’s very little scope to be verbose. The aim is to convey the facts. So, being succinct, to the point, and avoiding unnecessary complexity is important. It’s about conveying the maximum amount of information with as few words as possible, without sacrificing clarity.

Finally, persuasiveness is what makes a piece of legal writing compelling. It involves the strategic use of facts, logical reasoning, and legal precedents to convince the reader of the merits of a particular argument or position.

It's about making your argument so compelling that the reader, whether a judge, client, or fellow attorney, is inclined to agree with your perspective.

Types of Legal Writing

There are five main types of legal writing:

Descriptive Legal Writing

Descriptive legal writing involves creating documents that detail the rights, obligations, and duties of parties in specific situations.

Examples include contracts, wills, and leases.

This type of writing requires a high level of precision and clarity, as these documents often dictate the legal relationships between parties. Any ambiguity or misunderstanding can lead to disputes or litigation, emphasizing the need for meticulous drafting.

Persuasive Legal Writing

Persuasive legal writing is arguably the most recognized type of legal writing. It involves advocating for a specific position or outcome, primarily used in court cases.

Legal briefs and memorandums are prime examples, where lawyers present arguments and evidence to convince the court or other attorneys.

It requires a strategic blend of facts, law, and logic, crafted in a way that compels the reader to accept the proposed position.

Informative Legal Writing

Informative legal writing aims to provide a clear and concise explanation of legal issues or concepts.

This type of writing is common in legal opinions, law review articles, and legal handbooks. The goal is to inform the reader about the law without necessarily persuading them to a specific viewpoint.

This requires a comprehensive understanding of the topic and the ability to break down complex legal principles into understandable language.

Transactional Legal Writing

Transactional legal writing involves drafting documents for business transactions.

This includes business contracts, merger agreements, and securities disclosures. Unlike other types of legal writing, the audience often includes non-lawyers, such as business executives or investors.

As such, transactional legal writing requires not only a deep understanding of business law but also the ability to communicate legal terms and conditions in a way that non-lawyers can understand.

Procedural Legal Writing

Procedural legal writing focuses on the rules and processes of the legal system.

Examples include pleadings (documents filed with the court to initiate a lawsuit), motions (requests for the court to make a specific ruling), and appellate briefs (documents filed in appellate court arguing why the lower court's decision should be upheld or reversed).

Procedural legal writing requires a thorough knowledge of court rules and legal procedures, as well as the ability to present arguments and facts in a way that complies with these rules.

How to become a legal writer?

Formal Education and Qualifications

A strong foundation in law is essential for a legal writer. This typically involves obtaining a law degree, although some legal writers may have related degrees such as English or journalism and then specialize in law.

Further qualifications, like a Master of Laws (LL.M) or a certification in legal research and writing, can provide additional expertise.

Now, if you’re wondering if you can get into legal writing without a law degree, then the answer is yes. You can become a legal writer without having a law degree.

You’ll have to build experience slowly but it can be done.

Build Experience

Practical experience is invaluable in honing your legal writing skills. Yes, you can find writing jobs without experience, but to make really good money, you’ll need experience.

Clerkships and internships provide hands-on experience in drafting legal documents and conducting legal research.

Participating in legal writing competitions or contributing to law review journals can also offer opportunities to refine your skills and gain recognition.

There’s another way to build your legal writing experience — freelance platforms. Up Work, Freelancer, Fiverr, and so on. These platforms usually have some form of legal writing jobs posted all the time.

There’s a catch, though. The competition is ridiculous and you won’t be paid a lot. But then again, these are going to be your first jobs. They’re only there so that you can develop a legal writing portfolio. Once you have a legal writing portfolio of published works, you can move on to better clients with whom you can negotiate good prices for your work.

Develop a Portfolio

A portfolio showcasing your legal writing abilities is crucial when seeking professional opportunities.

This could include sample briefs, legal opinions, contracts, or articles you've written.

What’s key is that your portfolio demonstrates your ability to write different types of legal documents and handle various legal topics.

Once you have a strong portfolio and a genuine personal brand, finding high-quality, high-paying jobs becomes easier.

Create a LinkedIn profile

If you haven’t got a LinkedIn profile, you’re missing out on some of the best jobs in the world. We run a job board and even we say you’ll find great jobs on LinkedIn. That’s how important LinkedIn is.

It’s not just about getting great jobs, though. Obviously, you can find great remote writing jobs on our job board but the LinkedIn goes beyond that. It helps you create a personal brand, it allows you to network with the right people. It helps you get noticed by the right people, and it’s one of the first things that potential employers are going to check when they come across you.

So, create a LinkedIn profile and optimize it to the moon and back. We’ve got a great guide that you can read here.

Find Opportunities

Legal writing opportunities are plenty, actually. Law firms, courts, government agencies, non-profits, and most medium to large businesses need some sort of legal writing work done.

Law firms and courts often require legal writing for case briefs, memorandums, and pleadings. Government agencies and non-profits may need legal writers for policy analysis and drafting regulations.

Freelance legal writing can offer flexibility, with projects ranging from writing legal content for websites to drafting contracts for businesses.

And if you’re a freelance writer, diversification should already be on your mind, anyway.

Don’t stop learning

Law is constantly evolving, and professional development is key to staying current.

This could involve attending legal writing seminars or workshops, subscribing to legal publications, or joining professional organizations like the Legal Writing Institute.

These resources can provide updates on legal developments, new writing techniques, and networking opportunities.

Skills you need to become a legal writer:

Apart from the normal list of skills you need as a writer, there are certain skills that are quite specific to legal writing.

Understanding of Legal Principles and Terminology:

To write effectively in a legal context, you need a solid understanding of the law and its associated terminology. This includes knowledge of legal principles, case law, statutes, and legal processes.

Research: Finding and Interpreting Legal Authorities

Research is the bedrock of legal writing. It involves finding legal authorities, such as statutes, regulations, and case law, that are relevant to the legal issue at hand. This requires proficiency in using legal databases like Westlaw or LexisNexis.

But research isn't just about finding the law; it's also about understanding it. Interpreting legal authorities, discerning how they apply to your issue, and identifying any ambiguities or conflicts is a critical aspect of the research process.

Analysis: Applying the Law to Factual Situations

Once you've found and understood the relevant law, the next step is analysis. This involves applying the law to your specific factual situation and drawing logical conclusions.

At this stage, you should be asking questions like: How does this law apply to my facts? What legal arguments can I make based on this law?

Are there any counterarguments, and how can I address them? This analytical process forms the basis of your legal argument.

Attention to Detail:

Legal writing requires a meticulous eye for detail. This includes ensuring accuracy in your statements of law and fact, correct formatting and citation of legal authorities, and proofreading for grammatical errors.

Legal writing is one of those writing styles where the tone, format, and syntax are crucial to the process. The legal system works on the basis on known forms and formats and it’s important that you understand those comprehensively.

Understanding of Audience:

Effective legal writing requires tailoring your language, style, and approach to your audience, whether it's a judge, client, or fellow attorney. Understanding your audience's needs and perspectives can help make your writing more persuasive and effective.

Some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the role of legal writing?

The goal of legal writing is to communicate legal matters to different audiences. This is done via documents, from contracts, legal briefs, statutes, and judicial opinions.

Legal writing is a medium through which legal professionals articulate, argue, and interpret legal principles and issues.

Who uses legal writing?

There are a lot of people who use legal writing. Judges, lawyers, paralegal professionals, law firms, courts, government agencies, non-profits, and most medium to large businesses use legal writing services to some extent.

How hard is legal writing?

Legal writing is hard to get into, in that, it takes a lot of knowledge and skill to get a paying job as a legal writer. However, once you have the requisite knowledge, it shouldn’t be too hard, as long as you’re willing to keep yourself updated.

Is legal writing a good career?

Legal writing is a fantastic career if you’re willing to put the time and effort into becoming an expert. Legal writing is one of the highest-paid forms of writing and freelance legal writing gigs can be some of the most lucrative writing gigs out there.


Legal writing is a fantastic career if you know how to make it work. Start off with simple (possibly low-paying) jobs until you build a portfolio. You can then move on to better, higher-paying jobs.

In the meantime, if you are looking for high-quality writing jobs, check out Simple Job Listings. We only list remote jobs, most jobs pay really well, and a significant number of jobs that we post aren’t listed anywhere else.

Check out Simple Job Listings and find your dream remote writing job. Good luck!

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