Informative Legal Writing: Charts and Timelines for Expert Reports and Policy Briefs

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Typical legal writing courses cover persuasive and objective legal writing. Think: court brief and internal memorandum. International practitioners, on the other hand, will often write for informational purposes.

What is informative legal writing? Informative legal writing is found in expert reports or policy briefs. Informative legal writing permits us to use our expertise to investigate a situation, apply relevant legal standards and report back to a body or audience about what we found. We are not necessarily persuading them to take action on behalf of a client, as in persuasive writing. Nor are we viewing the facts from all possible angles and predicting outcomes, as in objective legal writing. Instead, informative legal writing can be viewed as a hybrid of the two. Expertise lends credibility, so there is no need to win over our audience. Our reader already wants us to weigh in and explain what our findings have been, so there is no need to consider all other perspectives or views on the subject. Accordingly, in informational legal writing, the clarity and simplicity of our message are the most essential characteristics.

Clarity and simplicity in expert reports are enhanced when we incorporate a graphic image summarizing or illustrating key information. Certain elements in Microsoft Word can assist us in achieving those goals. Under the insert tab, charts and smart art permit us to quickly create graphs and timelines. Charts demonstrate trends (increases, decreases) over time, while timelines emphasize important events or pinpoint chronological sequences. Both are useful to visualize our findings for our reader. They also permit us to concisely present large quantities of data.

Use charts and timelines in expert reports or policy briefs to succinctly present your conclusions and findings. Enhance accessibility and readability by incorporating these elements in your informative reports.


Legal Skills Lecturer in The Netherlands. (J.D. Columbia University; PhD Maastricht University International Human Rights Law.)

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