The Blog of Legal Times posted a helpful article last week on the liberal use of acronyms and abbreviations in legal writing. Judge Laurence Silberman of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit doesn't like them. The article cites a June opinion in which Judge Silberman complained about the excessive use of acronyms by both sides of a case: "Here both parties abandoned any attempt to write in plain English, instead abbreviating every conceivable agency and statute involved, familiar or not," he wrote. The same frustration surfaced in court last week, according to Legal Times, as the Judge chided counsel in a different case for using arcane acronyms.
The Judge makes a valuable point. A cardinal rule of legal writing is to respect your audience's need for clarity. In most instances, the judge (or judges) hearing your case will not be as familiar with the abbreviations and jargon of the matter as you are. Of course, acronyms are handy; they often seem to make sentences read more smoothly. But there is always a way to avoid them--especially if they will confuse or annoy the court.