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Legal writing is a type of technical writing used by lawyers, judges, legislators, and others in law to express legal analysis and legal rights and duties. Legal writing places heavy reliance on authority. In most legal writing, the writer must back up assertions and statements with citations to authority. This is accomplished by a unique and complicated citation system, unlike that used in any other genre of writing. Legal writing values precedent, as distinct from authority. Precedent means the way things have been done before.
For example, a lawyer who must prepare a contract and who has prepared a similar contract before will often re-use, with limited changes, the old contract for the new occasion. Specialized words and phrases unique to law, e. Ordinary words having different meanings in law, e. These features tend to make legal writing formal. This formality can take the form of long sentences, complex constructions, archaic and hyper-formal vocabulary, and a focus on content to the exclusion of reader needs.