The legal world is abuzz these days. Whisperings and mentionings of some book called Typography for Lawyers. Perhaps you’ve heard about it; maybe you haven’t. Either way, you should definitely buy it.
I’m a visual person so it’s not surprising that I was immediately intrigued by the title when I heard it referenced. Blawgs such as Defending People and The Jury Room both made reference to it in posts. I quickly arrived at Matthew Butterick’s website www.typographyforlawyers.com, the forerunner to the book. I was fortunate enough to have some spare Lexis points so I cashed ’em in for my copy, which I now keep handy right beside the Chicago Manual of Style and Bluebook. These books are ones that can be found on my desk in perpetuity.
Why is this book good? Because it might, just might, make lawyers stop following all of the bad formatting habits of the profession in their writing. Court documents, memoranda, contracts, etc… are treated as utilitarian documents by most attorneys, with little to no emphasis being put on how these documents look. Before Butterick’s book, the few who hated this utilitarian reality were in an awkward position– they could march to the beat of a different drummer with the likely result being admonition or they could acquiesce to the world of ugly typography in legal documents. Now, there is an authority we few can rely upon to support our typographic decisions.
Okay, but why else is it good? First, it’s easy to read. The text is accessible and does a good job of assuming you’re an intelligent yet uninformed reader. Second, the book makes great use of examples. All throughout the book, Butterick provides visual examples of what is effective and ineffective— true proof by example. Third, the book explains the mechanics of of how to accomplish the desired effect. Even if your experience level with a word processor is limited, there are instructions for the major options (e.g. Apple’s Pages and several versions of Microsoft Office). I could continue but I think it’s best to let you see for yourself.
Coverage of this book has grown like wildfire all over the blawgosphere, which means you might soon be left in the dark if you don’t get your hands on a copy. Soon, more and more lawyers will be following Butterick’s guide to varying extents. The chances you interact with one of these people is only going to get higher so you’d do well to not have the uglier of the two briefs, pleadings, etc… The book retails for $25 USD and is available on Amazon. It’s a small price to pay so go out and get it. Just do it– you’ll be glad you did.