Respectfully Sheweth”, “Wherefore it is most respectfully prayed”, “Without Prejudice”, “Ubi jus ibi remedium (There is no wrong without a remedy)”, “Cause of Action.” These are just a few legal phrases that are common to a litigating lawyer’s vocabulary. Over the years, I have often been asked, “How do you read so much and understand all the complex legal language?” Well, it sometimes can be arduous but what one appreciates after a great deal of time and practice, is that every word used in a particular text is there for a reason and from it, many questions arise which entail another journey for their answers. Sounds vague, right? As a practicing lawyer, one is always required to read and understand judgments, laws, commentaries and legal dictionary meanings. And with that knowledge in hand, it enables a lawyer to be able to draft pleadings, notices, contracts, various deeds and other miscellaneous legal documents. Aside from litigating in Courts, lawyers also specialize in drafting legal documentation – those long documents which include the fine print that no one wants to read because it is too “technical” or too long. However, what is important to note is not the kind of language a lawyer uses i.e. the use of ornate adjectives, but how effective and precise the communication is with the desired audience. A good lawyer uses his or her words precisely, carefully and with a specific purpose – it is an art, an art which one is always still learning.

When I first began my apprenticeship whilst working and studying simultaneously during my LLB years, I was given “Jurisprudence” by Salmond to read. I approached reading it with much confidence, as I had graduated from LUMS and had apparently acquired some analytical skills. I found it to be very complex and wondered what I had gotten myself into. To this day, I still struggle to read the book at a decent pace. But what struck me about the text was the use of the language employed to understand legal concepts behind the ‘philosophy of law’. What followed after attempting to read “Jurisprudence” was a reading and understanding of the relevant ‘Orders’ of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, to familiarize oneself with the art of ‘pleadings’ – the formal statement of claims brought forward by a party before a Court.

Three years had passed in a flash, and it was during my LLB Part III Examination that I would understand the advantage one gains by having the opportunity to be able to work with a practicing lawyer whilst qualifying for an LLB degree. The Examination Paper was ‘Pleadings and Conveyancing and Interpretation of Statutes” – where we had to answer four questions in English and two questions in Urdu in three hours. As my written Urdu was slow and tedious, I finished the English questions in forty five minutes and spent the remainder of the exam duration attempting the two mandatory questions in Urdu. When I became qualified to practice, that is where my real education of the use of legal language began – learning how to use words effectively in order to establish effective communication with the Court, with the opposite party and with Clients.

I recall one of my first experiences of drafting an application in a particular case I was assigned to handle during my first year of law practice. After creating my first ‘masterpiece,’ I went to my Ustaad for his feedback. He took his pen and proceeded to put big crosses on certain paras. Whilst interrogating me on my understanding of the applicable law involved, he asked me to re-draft those paras. Humbled by the experience, I attempted to ‘fix’ what was wrong. I took the corrected application back to him and he informed me that it still needed improvement. On the third attempt, he said, “Okay, where should I sign?” (as he was the Senior Counsel in the case). I asked him if he was going to read the re-drafted version and he said that he did not need to, as he was satisfied that I had done the needful. It was a very interesting learning experience for me. Normally teachers point out the particular mistakes and tell the student what to fix exactly. However, what I was taught was that for a Judge, a lawyer needs to make the language of his pleadings easy to read, easy to understand and to make logical sense for achieving its object. Unfortunately, the fate of my application was not in my favor in the end as the learned Civil Judge declined to grant me the relief I had sought, but the decision was set aside by the High Court on appeal. And so, my first experience of “thinking and re-thinking” proved to be a small victory! The language of the law may seem to be complex but it is all about using those words in a manner most suited to the particular situation a lawyer is faced with. And more often than not, less is more!