Matthew Butterick’s excellent book, Typography for Lawyers, explains how lawyers can easily create more polished documents. Butterick graduated magna cum laude from Harvard where he studied typography. Then he went to UCLA law school and became a solo lawyer.
Butterick’s premise is that typography in legal documents should be held to the same standards as any professionally published material, because legal documents are professionally published material. Butterick’s book explains how set up firm letterhead, legal memos, and briefs. He explains how to craft a proper caption, something that most lawyers foolishly take for granted.
Before reading Butterick’s book, my pleadings used to look pretty much like every other lawyer’s. I had no idea that there was anything typographically deficient with a caption like this one:
After studying his formulas for proper pleadings I reworked my template for federal court pleadings. Now, they look like this.
Big improvement, right?
I wish this book had been around when I started practicing as a solo lawyer. Butterick also provides excellent tips on fonts, layout, and paper that works well with a small laser printer.
Inspired by Butterick, I started delving into the settings of my word processing program (He gives you instructions for Microsoft Word, and Apple Pages). It was easy to tweak things using his explanations. Now, my letterhead is visually clean, and optimized for printing on my laser printer:
The amount of information packed into this thin 200 page book is truly incredible; he even covers the optimal font size and color to use in bates-numbering documents (also explaining how to set up bates-numbering in Adobe Acrobat).
A lot of the information in the book is available for free on his Typography for Lawyers website (www.typographyforlawyers.com). But, do yourself a favor and buy the book, because you’re going to need to refer back to passages—which no doubt you’ll fill with yellow sticky tags. Typography for Lawyers is available for $25 on Amazon, which is a bargain. Assuming you want your pleadings and letterhead to look stunningly professional, that is.
If you sign up for our free email newsletter, I’d be happy to send you a template I created from Butterick’s principles (using Microsoft Word). Click here to sign up.
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