As lawyers, we work with documents every day. I (and I suspect most of you) want my documents to look their best; I want them formatted uniformly, grammatically correct, and pleasing to the eye. But I read a book earlier this year that made me realize how badly I’ve been doing, and how badly all of the briefs I get from opposing counsel are. That book is Typography for Lawyers by Matthew Butterick.
Typography is the art and technique of arranging type in order to make language visible. This can include anything from font to line spacing to the effective use of white space. The point is to make your documents as easy to absorb and understand as possible, and making them look good helps achieve this task. Judges appreciate this, as I was continually reminded at a recent Advanced Legal Writing Seminar sponsored by the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana.
Butterick speaks on this topic with authority as a former graphic designer and professional typographer who is now a lawyer practicing in California. His book is incredibly useful, as it has practical tips for implementing his suggestions on the major word processing platforms and is chock-full of examples to illustrate his points. And while you may think that this topic coiuld charitably be described as less than exciting, his writing is engaging. Take, for instance, this excerpt from his discussion of the Times New Roman font.