Learned Writing: Sense & Nonsense, 26-28 Oct 2016, Oriental Hotel, Victoria Island Lagos

Learned Writing 26-28 Oct 2016
Good writing is the most critical and yet the rarest skill in law.

Listen to Bryan Garner: “Writing is one of the two great skills that will advance your career in law. (The other is people skills.) If you can write well, you must necessarily do other things well: analyze cogently, organize logically, distill accurately, argue persuasively, cite knowledgeably, punctuate skillfully, and phrase smoothly.”

Boost your writing skills by taking part in our legal-writing workshops. Learned Writing: Sense & Nonsense is an intensive and interactive 3-day workshop, with exercises, group tasks, and expert guidance. Download course outline here.

Target Participants
• Advocates
• Court and Tribunal Clerks, Registrars, Deputy Registrars, and Officials
• Customs & Excise Lawyers
• Espionage Lawyers
• General Counsel and Heads of Legal Departments
• In-House Counsel
• Intelligence & Security Lawyers
• Legislative aides, drafters, and staff
• Judges and Justices
• Judicial Assistants and Clerks
• Judicial and Legal Correspondents, Editors, and Journalists
• Justice Ministry staff
• Law Officers and lawyers in ministries, departments, and agencies
• Law Reporters
• Law Students
• Law Teachers
• Legal personnel in banks, corporations, debt recovery agencies, and oil companies
• Legal personnel in intelligence, law enforcement, prosecutorial, security, and tax enforcement agencies
• Legal Practitioners
• Legislative Drafters
• Magistrates
• Military Lawyers
• Paralegals
• Prosecutors
• Solicitors
• State Counsel

Dates: Wed 26-Fri 28 Oct 2016
Time: 9am-5pm each day
Venue: Oriental Hotel, Victoria Island Lagos
Fee: N200,000

Please pay to The Write House, 0153954433, GTBank.

    If you pay by online transfer, enter your full name in the Reference or Remarks column of your bank’s online platform, or email transfer advice to info@writehouse.org.
    If you deposit cash or cheque, add your name to the deposit slip, and email it to info@writehouse.org.
    Once we confirm your payment, we shall register you and prepare your certificate in advance.
    If you’re unable to attend, you can defer or transfer your registration.

Senator 0806 735 1417
Kome 0806 092 6746
Ololade 0806 261 4730

The Write House
Email info@writehouse.org

Video on ‘The Uncommon Law of Learned Writing’ by Chinua Asuzu

This video introduces The Write House’s new book, The Uncommon Law of Learned Writing.

The Uncommon Law of Learned Writing encourages and motivates lawyers and nonlawyers alike to prefer plain English to the legalese and verbosity that has besmirched legal writing for centuries.

Please view and share this video by email and on social media. https://youtu.be/uAXBquo5haw

Reporting the Reporters

‘The Write Partner’ assesses, criticizes, or praises the language of selected passages from Nigeria’s leading law reports.

Aikhadueki [2014] 15 NWLR (Part 1431) 530- Supreme Court of Nigeria

Under Facts, the law reporter begins as follows:

The appellant was arraigned with other accused persons at the High Court of Imo State, Orlu and charged with the murder of one Christian Owerreoma on the 15th day of August 2002 along Orlu Road Junction by Mgbidi, Orlu Judicial Division contrary to section 319(1) of the Criminal Code, Cap. 30, Vol. 11, Laws of Eastern Nigeria 1963 as applicable to Imo State.

This passage is faulty in several respects:

1. It should have started: Police Corporal Bonny Aikhadueki . . . . This would humanize the appellant. Facts sections (whether in briefs, law reports, or judgments) should read like stories. Using parties’ names enhances the story element.

2. Why couple arraigned and charged. The report should have started: Police Corporal Bonny Aikhadueki was charged, along with others, with murdering Christian Owerreoma.

3. There is no need to precede the victim’s name with one.

4. The court and date are unnecessary. They appear in other, more formulaic parts of the report.

5. The venue of the crime is unnecessary, being irrelevant to the finding.

6. The judicial division is unnecessary, as territorial jurisdiction was never an issue.

7. The statutory citation should not include chapter and volume of the Laws of Eastern Nigeria.

8. The passage should have read:

Police Corporal Bonny Aikhadueki was charged, along with others, with murdering Christian Owerreoma. The charge was brought under section 319(1) of the Criminal Code Law as applied in Imo State.

What happened in Mylward v Welden?

The plaintiff filed pleadings running into 120 pages. The learned judge was not happy. The learned judge struggled through the volumes of jargon. The judge then assessed that all the pertinent material could have been contained in 16 pages. He asked who wrote this mumbo jumbo. When told that the culprit was the plaintiff’s son Richard Mylward, the learned judge imposed severe sanctions on Richard for his annoying verbosity, which, in the judge’s view, amounted to an abuse of court process. The sanctions included perforating the offending mass of documents and inserting poor Richard’s head through the hole made in the paperwork, and then leading him about the court premises during court sittings for all to ridicule, with the large pack of documents hanging around his shoulders.

“Gives a whole new meaning to the expression ‘legal loophole’, doesn’t it?” quipped the editor of Clarity Newsletter.

Lawyers’ language goes on trial—less literally than in Mylward’s case.

When I was a kid growing up in Onitsha, occasionally I would go to the courthouse to observe proceedings. One day I watched the following unfold.

The witness swore to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help him, God. The clerk asked him whether he understood English. The witness said yes. The lawyer for his side did the direct examination. Then the opposite lawyer gathered her papers and came over to start cross-examination:

Lawyer: Is the defendant’s land contiguous to your father’s farm?

Witness: (No response, looking blank, glancing pitiably at the judge)

Lawyer: Answer the question! Is the defendant’s land contiguous to your father’s farm?

Witness: Sorry, I don’t understand.

Lawyer (yelling): You don’t understand? But you told this honourable court that you understood English.

Judge (to counsel): Why not rephrase your question in plain English?

Lawyer: My lady, he said he understands English. I’m speaking English to him now and he’s moping like a cow!
(Turning belligerently back to the witness):
Is your father’s farm contiguous to the defendant’s land?
(Back to the judge):
My lady, I’ve rephrased the question. Let him answer it. He must answer the question.

Witness: I’m sorry, my lady. I do not understand the question.

Pompous campus lexicon

When I went to university, the community encouraged pompous language with big words. Examples:-

Plain English: Birds of like feather flock together.
Lawyer-friendly university translation: Birds of identical plumage congregate in the same equilibrium.

Plain English: A rolling stone gathers no moss.
Lawyer-friendly university translation: A travelling geological formation acquires little vegetative growth.

Plain English: Charity begins at home.
Lawyer-friendly university translation: Eleemosynary contributions commence with one’s domicile.

Plain English: Turn off lights before close of work.
Lawyer-friendly university translation: Illumination is required to be extinguished before these premises are closed to business.