August 31, 2010

Legal Typography

Derek H. Keirnan-Johnson, University of Colorado Law School, has published Telling Through Type: Typography and Narrative in Legal Briefs, in the Journal of the Association of Legal Writing Directors. Here is the abstract.
Most legal authors today self-publish, using basic word-processing software and letting the software’s default settings determine what their documents will look like when printed. As these settings are not optimized for legal texts, they do so at their peril. The default font Times New Roman, for example, as Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook warns, is "utterly inappropriate for long documents [such as] briefs."

Commentators have started urging a more deliberate approach to legal typography. Their suggestions, however, have been content-neutral, intended for all legal texts and focused on goals such as legibility and readability.

Typography, however, has much greater potential. The shapes, the spacing, of letters and of words can reinforce, compliment, and independently create narrative meaning. Or, intentionally or unintentionally, it can cut against it. It can do its work honestly and ethically, or inappropriately and subversively. This article explores how.

Download the article from SSRN at the link.

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