Lawyers Can Have Style: Understanding the Hidden Power of Fonts

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In a unique article in this month’s Practice Innovations, author Conrad Jacoby examines how the careful use of typographic fonts can enhance — or destroy — the power of otherwise effective writing. The author also looks at how organizations should consider implementing guidelines and educating their employees how to best use fonts in their work.

Effective writing powers society. It provides guidance and instructions, memorializes history, and voices our most personal opinions and feelings. Within the legal community, lawyers obsess over finding the perfect words to express their legal arguments and conclusions, whether these words appear in court filings, contracts, opinion letters, correspondence, or any of the many ways that lawyers use writing in their work.

Effective writing, however, requires presentation as well as substance. The best-written document in the world is ineffective if no one reads it — and a great idea, presented poorly, may well be disregarded regardless of its strengths. Many lawyers think of presentation in terms of vocabulary and writing — hence lawyers’ fixation on finding “perfect words” — but typographic fonts, the basic letters used to create those perfect words, also play a surprisingly important role.

Lawyers have a complex relationship with fonts. For lawyers filing documents in court, font choice is relatively straight-forward, as most courts have requirements as to which fonts and font sizes must be used in court filings. However, outside of court, where a great deal of legal writing takes place, there are far fewer rules. In particular, as more and more writing takes place electronically and is never printed out (i.e., e-mail, blogs, and web-sites), guidance for printed correspondence can actually be counterproductive when applied to electronic media.

Scientific studies have demonstrated that font choice and font size matters, especially when applied to digital-only presentation of text.

Click here to read the full article — in PDF form to show the appropriate fonts — in the July issue of Practice Innovations.