Friday Resource: SC Appleseed Legal Justice Center

Friday Resource - SC Appleseed Legal Justice Center
Friday Resource - SC Appleseed Legal Justice Center

In South Carolina, when you think of poverty law and advocacy, you often think of  the SC Appleseed Legal Justice Center.

What you may not know is that SC Appleseed also publishes brochures, manuals and pamphlets for South Carolinians. Like the SCATJ Commission, SC Appleseed is a fan of PLAIN LANGUAGE and has some material available in Spanish (en español).


Answering FAQs: It’s Harder than You Think!


The SC Access to Justice Commission has been working with the Clerk of Court Work Group to develop answers to Frequently Asked Questions or FAQs. These FAQs have taken considerably more time to complete than I had originally thought.


Because the Clerks, Court Administration and the Commission want to make certain that the information we provide to the public is

  1. accurate,
  2. complete, and
  3. helpful.

In order to assure accuracy, we have reviewed the South Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure (SCRCP), the South Carolina Code as well as information provided by other states. Additionally, to ensure that the information is complete, we have researched case law and publications, such as “Service of Process in South Carolina” by John S. Nichols and published by the SC Bar.

One other factor that is extremely important to the Clerks, Court Administration and the Commission is that the information is provided in an easy-to-read format and that it is easily understandable. In other words, we want them to be written in PLAIN LANGUAGE.

This week the Commission is submitting the Questions and Answers to the Circuit Court and Family Court Advisory Committees where they will provide another level of scrutiny to ensure that the answers are accurate, complete and helpful.

When the FAQs with their model answers are complete, they will be available online. Be stay tuned for updates.

We’re looking forward to sharing the FAQs and answers with you!


Plain English Guru: Ken Davis

A brief thanks to for pointing us to Kenneth W. Davis


Once we clicked to his blog, we knew we’d found a gem: a Plain English Guru.

Sure, it’s not a legal writing blog. Ah, much more importanly, it’s a blog about writing. Writing for everyone.

And that’s something many of us attorneys push aside as we start writing. We write to impress the Court. We write to impress the Client. We write to impress anyone who may read our loquacious and eloquent documents.

In essence, as lawyers, we often forget to write  for someone, we write to impress the audience with our hard-earned and years of education. After all, we had to learn to write those Latin phrases in law school, right?

Writing with flourish may be fun and it may be exciting to search for words out of the brain’s recesses that house our grammar school vocabulary tests, but those are endeavors for us, the writers.

When we write for the reader, we should write clearly and with a end in sight – to get our idea across to the reader.

And Mr. Davis is the go-to-guy for plain writing.


Initial Thoughts

I am excited to spend my summer with SC Access to Justice! I spent the last two days orienting myself to what SC Access to Justice is commissioned to do and the issues are currently before us. There is so much going on and I am eager to get my feet wet exploring topics including Rule 608, bundling v. unbundling services, encouraging lawyers to use plain language when communicating with the public and exploring ways to work with the growing number of self-represented litigants.

– Allie

Legalese? No thanks!

I’m always pleased to see articles by others about using Plain Language in lieu of legalese. And yesterday, posted one.

So then I thought I’d check and see how often the term “Legalese” appears in news searches on Google.

The answer is 147 times.

Then for goofs, I checked how often the term appears in blog searches on Google.

The answer is 72,710 times.

And what is the reason for this?

Blogs allow people to express their feelings much more easily, especially displeasure. Now I did not read the seventy-two thousand seven hundred ten different blogs (I do work y’know) but I glanced at their topics and noted that they were generally berating the use of legalese.


Sure, it may mean a little job security in the short-term, but in the long-term, we’ll have poorly drafted documents that may amount to gibberish.

Some of the blogs also noted that plain, concise language is actually harder to write. Easier to read, but harder to write.

Take this example from here:

When the man in the street says: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, the lawyer writes,”Insofar as
manifestations of functional deficiencies are agreed by any and all concerned parties to be imperceivable,
and are so stipulated, it is incumbent upon said heretofore mentioned parties to exercise the deferment
of otherwise pertinent maintenance procedures.”

Just a Thursday thought!


ABA Journal makes the case for PLAIN LANGUAGE

I know you’ve heard it here before, but I just read an article about Plain Language that I couldn’t wait to share. It’s an article by Jim McElhaney in the November 2008 issue of the ABA Journal and can be accessed by clicking here. Teaser below:

Today, most U.S. lawyers share the disability of having gone to law school. . . .

The unspoken but central message of law school is if you want to be a lawyer, learn to write like the judges who wrote the opinions in your casebooks. And even worse, learn to talk like a law professor.



 PS – Another blogger thought this article was noteworthy – 



Plain Language: Moving Away from Legalese

The South Carolina Access to Justice Commission was first introduced to the concept of Plain Language at the regional public hearings last spring.  Last week, Court Solutions’ attendees learned more about the Plain Language movement and heard about initiatives around the country.

Plain Language uses words and images that most people can understand. It enables people with low literacy abilities, people with limited English proficiency and/or people with cognitive disabilities to more easily understand the concepts. People with visual impairments benefit from plain language because it is easier for their automated “screen readers.”

There are many online resources about how to draft plain language documents. Here are just a few:

Stay tuned for more information about Plain Language updates from Stephanie A. Nye.