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Attorney Editor Legal Editing

Lawyer Editor Legal Editing Proofreader

Legal writing is a specialized form of writing that requires an understanding of the substantive aspects of law as well as the structure and style required by legal writing itself. A good legal editor must first and foremost understand how the state and federal court systems operate and the concept of stare decisis, or judicial precedent, which generally refers to how lower courts must follow the laws as interpreted by higher courts. Thus, much of legal writing contains citations to prior legal opinions that are cited as precedent. Legal citations have a very specific structure, containing the number for the case law reporter, the page number, the jurisdiction that rendered the legal opinion, and the date. The style book that serves as the guide for legal citations and legal writing generally is the Blue Book for Legal Citations. A good legal editor will be extremely familiar with the styles in the Blue Book and must know how to refer to it when editing a legal document.

An effective legal editor must also be generally familiar with substantive legal issues, and it is therefore beneficial, if not necessary, for a legal editor to have a law degree. As with other specializations such as engineering and medicine, law truly does have a language of its own, and as an editor it is important to know how to speak the language. Legal editors have the skills to edit many types of legal writing, ranging from highly technical articles addressed to lawyers, to more generalized articles with the nonlawyer, layperson in mind as the audience. It is further noted that the modern trend is to move away from verbose writing, often referred to as “legalese,” and a good legal editor will know how to help the author present his or her ideas in a more concise way without changing the author’s meaning or style. Finally, a good legal editor will, just as any other type of editor, have a keen eye for typos, grammatical errors, and poor sentence structure in a document.

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