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We lawyers probably use more jargon than any other profession. Sometimes a new and inexperienced secretary not used to the terminology can present one with a late afternoon chuckle. I was fortunate enough to catch two of my favorites before the documents got out the door and provided amusement for my fellow members of the bar.

The first involved a complaint that called for the term “jointly and severally liable,” as in the defendants are jointly and severally liable on the note. The secretary had typed “jointly and severely liable.” My partners and I chuckled a bit, since the note in question was quite large and the liability was likely to be pretty severe from the defendants' viewpoint. Nevertheless, we changed it to the appropriate terminology.

The second was a bit more amusing and a lot more dangerous had it made it out of the office. I had prepared a motion seeking some sort of action by the Court. Motions are customarily relatively short and are supported by more voluminous documents filed at the same time as the motion. The supporting documents are usually cited in the motion with a standard phrase such as “the brief filed contemporaneously herewith.” This particular motion was being filed before a judge for whose legal abilities I had little regard. He was aware of my lack of admiration, for I had expressed it often to him before he was anointed – whoops, that's appointed – to the bench. His arrogant and prickly nature was renowned throughout the local bar. My brief in support of my motion was written rather simplistically in light of my general opinion of his ability to comprehend the most basic of legal precepts. Some might even have viewed the tone of its language as condescending. You can perhaps imagine my dismay when I read the following in the motion: “defendant's brief filed contemptuously herewith.” It was certainly accurate, but hardly appropriate. My partners, the secretary and I had a good laugh and promptly changed it to the more traditional terminology.

For years, my junior partner has accused me of actually dictating both, sort of Freudian slips, and then blaming the secretary. Perhaps she's correct. In any event, I'm glad I caught them.

Cheers for now,

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