In a recent article, Sir Robin Jacob, Former Lord Justice of Appeal sets out 14 rules for writing judgements. Sir Jacob touches on his experiences with judgements and why he believes modern judgements have become so ling.
The fact is that modern judgments have become far too long.
Whether at first instance (where fact-finding will inevitably increase
length somewhat) or on appeal I hazard that they are on average
nearly twice as long as they were 50 years ago.
Life is too short to read modern judgments.
A JUDICIAL CODE FOR JUDGMENT-WRITING
- Judgments should be as concise as reasonably possible;
- Keep sentences short. Never use two words
where one will do;
- Beware subordinate clauses;
- Keep the number of authorities you cite down to what
is necessary. You are not writing to show how clever or
learned you are;
- If you quote from an authority, keep the quotation as
short as possible. Seldom, if ever, use more than two
sentences. The same applies when quoting from a
- Keep your recital of facts to what is necessary;
- Avoid any detail that is not important;
- When you have done your first draft judgment, go over
it and cut out unnecessary words or see if you can say
something more succinctly;
- Then do it again;
- Empathise with your key readers—who are the parties;
- Eschew trying to lay down the law on the subject in
hand for all future generations;
- The losing party is the more important and you need
to cover each point he or she makes. But, save for the
main point(s), all others only need brief mention and
disposal. This is particularly true at first instance—do
not let a large number of points lead to prolixity;
- Overall, try to make the whole thing at least readable, if
not a page-turner.