Why Is Legal Language So Complicated

Why Is Legal Language So Complicated?

Legal language, commonly referred to as legalese, is often criticized for being overly complex and difficult to understand. This complexity can make legal documents, contracts, and statutes confusing for the average person. While the use of complicated language in the legal field may seem unnecessary, there are several reasons why it exists.

1. Precision and Clarity:
Legal language aims to provide precise and unambiguous instructions. By using specific terms and phrases, legal professionals can ensure that a law or contract is clear and leaves no room for misinterpretation.

2. Legal Tradition:
The legal profession has a long-standing tradition of using complex language. This tradition developed over centuries and is deeply rooted in history and cultural practices. Despite efforts to simplify legal language, many legal terms and phrases have become deeply ingrained in legal systems around the world.

3. Precedent and Consistency:
Legal language is often used to maintain consistency and adhere to legal precedent. The use of specific words and phrases helps to ensure that legal documents align with previous judgments and interpretations, allowing for the establishment of a consistent legal framework.

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4. Nuances and Technicalities:
The law is a complex field that deals with intricate details and specific circumstances. Legal language is designed to capture these nuances and technicalities accurately. By using precise language, legal professionals can draft documents that cover all possible scenarios and contingencies.

5. Protecting Rights and Obligations:
Legal language is intended to protect the rights and obligations of individuals and entities involved in legal matters. By using precise language, legal documents can outline the rights, responsibilities, and consequences that arise from specific situations.

6. Avoiding Ambiguity:
Ambiguity in legal documents can lead to confusion, disputes, and costly litigation. By employing complex language, legal professionals aim to minimize the potential for misinterpretation and ensure that the intended meaning is clear.

7. Interpreting Legal Concepts:
Legal language is often used to define and interpret legal concepts. It provides a framework for understanding the principles, doctrines, and procedures that govern the legal system.

8. Professional Jargon:
Like many specialized fields, law has its own professional jargon. Legal language allows legal professionals to communicate effectively with one another, using terms and phrases that have specific meanings within the legal context.

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9. Historical Context:
Legal language is often influenced by historical context, including laws and statutes that have evolved over time. While some may argue that simplifying legal language would make it more accessible, preserving historical language can help maintain a connection to the legal traditions and principles that have shaped our legal systems.


1. Why can’t legal language be simplified?
Legal language is often complex to ensure precision, maintain consistency, and capture the nuances and technicalities of the law.

2. Can legal documents be understood by the average person?
Legal documents are typically drafted by legal professionals for legal professionals. However, efforts are being made to make legal language more accessible to the general public.

3. What are some common features of legal language?
Legal language often includes technical terms, Latin phrases, and dense sentence structures to provide clarity and unambiguous instructions.

4. Does complicated legal language contribute to inequality?
Critics argue that complicated legal language can create a barrier for individuals without legal training, contributing to inequality in accessing and understanding the law.

5. Are there any efforts to simplify legal language?
Yes, there are ongoing efforts to simplify legal language, including the use of plain language drafting techniques and the creation of plain language legal resources.

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6. Can legal language be changed easily?
Changing legal language requires careful consideration and often involves legislative processes or judicial interpretations.

7. Does complicated legal language benefit lawyers?
While legal professionals are trained to understand and navigate complex legal language, simplifying it could enhance communication and reduce misunderstandings.

8. Can legal language be translated accurately?
Translating legal language can be challenging due to its specific terminology and cultural nuances, requiring the expertise of legal translators.

9. Are there any risks in simplifying legal language too much?
Simplifying legal language too much may result in ambiguity, imprecision, and unintended consequences, undermining the purpose of legal documents.

In conclusion, legal language is complicated for various reasons including the need for precision, adherence to legal tradition, and the complexities inherent in the law. While efforts to simplify legal language are ongoing, it is essential to strike a balance between accessibility and preserving the necessary precision and clarity required for legal documents.