EP1 – What do judges think of Plain Language?

Publié le 13 . 11 . 2020
Dernière mise à jour 25 . 11 . 2020

We are starting a new series on LD seen by judges, courts, litigators, its use in class actions… At Amurabi, we believe that Legal Design is a powerful vector for access to justice. Thus, we wanted to know what do judges think of one of the key components of Legal Design, and the one facing the most resistance from lawyers: Plain Language

Judge Sophie Parmantier, who’s in charge of continuous training at the Ecole nationale de la Magistrature (French national school for judges), leverages Plain Language on a daily basis to make “complex legal content accessible to future non-professional judges at commercial or labor courts, who have no legal background”.  

Plain language is the opposite of the complex legal language. It consists in using a simple and straightforward way of formulating a legal information to make it comprehensible to all users. It’s a text that is so clear that, upon the first reading, users (i) easily find the information they need, (ii) swiftly understand that information and (iii) know what to do with it. More importantly, having access to clear legal information is a right. Since 2010 when the Plain Writing Act was implemented in the United-States, it is stated that: “Government documents issued to the public must be written clearly. ». As to France, the principle of clarity of the law has been recognized by the Constitutional Council as a “principle with constitutional value” since 1999.

But what to do with legalese?  

Sophie Parmantier explains that ‘’Our approach is to keep those technical terms, because judges will inevitably face them, but systematically add an explanation in plain language. E.g. we keep “syllogism”, but explain that it means “legal reasoning”, or in terms of judicial liquidation, we keep “realization of the assets”, and explain that it concerns the sale”.  

It is important to specify that plain language is not a simplified version of the regular legal language, but rather a way to make information accessible. In order to allow the users to find and understand key elements, plain language focuses on various elements: wording, design and structure, to make sure that the information is as clear as it can be.  

Why use Plain Language? 

Plain language can be beneficial to all. It saves time: documents are understood more quickly, fewer errors are made. It also helps in avoiding the need for more detailed explanations, and in considerably reducing the number of litigations cases involving contracts (More to learn in Episode 3)  

Importantly, Judge Anne-Cécile Soulard explains that “plain language allows us to give non-professional judges tools to get familiar with the codes of law and be empowered”.


Click here to see some examples of our own legal design examples in litigation, and in contracts


Click here to access the second episode focusing on “How can Legal Design benefit judges?”.


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