As law­yers, we know that writ­ing is cen­tral to our work. Whether it’s a sixty-page brief for the United States Supreme Court, or a two-line email tapped out in an air­port ter­mi­nal, our jobs require a steady flow of clear, effec­tive writ­ten com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

But we do more than write. We edit, we rewrite, we for­mat, we print, we copy, we fax, we mail, we file. We take respon­si­bil­ity for all the steps between us and our read­ers. And we’re liable for the con­se­quences if we don’t. So we’re more than just writ­ers—we’re pub­lish­ers.

In fact, we’re part of the biggest pub­lish­ing indus­try in the United States. Accord­ing to the Bureau of Labor Sta­tis­tics, in May 2014, the print-pub­lish­ing indus­try (includ­ing books, news­pa­pers, and mag­a­zines) employed 724,900 peo­ple at an aver­age hourly wage of $38.43. Mean­while, 1,052,900 peo­ple were employed in law-related jobs at an aver­age hourly wage of $48.61, includ­ing 603,310 law­yers.

But those fig­ures don’t express the other dimen­sion of our writ­ing: how con­se­quen­tial it is. Some of us han­dle issues that involve life and death, or civil rights and oppres­sion, or jobs and liveli­hoods. But regard­less of the stakes, all of us are han­dling issues that are impor­tant to some­one—our clients.

In short, our work mat­ters.
Because our work mat­ters, our writ­ing mat­ters.
Because our writ­ing mat­ters, our typog­ra­phy mat­ters.

I’m not here to tell you that typog­ra­phy is at the core of a law­yer’s work. It’s not. But typog­ra­phy can opti­mize that work. All writ­ing nec­es­sar­ily involves typog­ra­phy. And good writ­ing is part of good law­yer­ing. So good typog­ra­phy is too. If you ignore typog­ra­phy, you’re ignor­ing an oppor­tu­nity to improve both your writ­ing and your advo­cacy.

This book is based on three prin­ci­ples.

  1. Good typog­ra­phy is part of good writ­ing.

  2. Legal doc­u­ments are pro­fes­sion­ally pub­lished mate­r­ial and thus should be held to the same typo­graphic stan­dards.

  3. Any law­yer can mas­ter the essen­tials of good typog­ra­phy.

The first chap­ter, Why typography matters, explains what typog­ra­phy is and why you should care.

The next three chap­ters cover typo­graphic rules. Type composition cov­ers the sym­bols and char­ac­ters avail­able on the key­board. Text formatting cov­ers the appear­ance of char­ac­ters and text, includ­ing a selec­tion of font recommendations. Page layout cov­ers the broader issues that sur­face when putting doc­u­ments together. In each chap­ter, rather than group­ing the rules into top­ics and subtopics, I’ve sequenced them roughly in order of dif­fi­culty, and grouped them into basic and advanced sets.

The last chap­ter, sample documents, brings every­thing together by work­ing through before-and-after exam­ples of com­mon legal doc­u­ments.

Use this book how­ever you like. Some will want to learn every­thing in type composition before mov­ing on to text formatting. Oth­ers will want to mas­ter the basic rules in each chap­ter before try­ing the advanced rules. Oth­ers will want to open the book only when a spe­cific typo­graphic issue arises.

Regard­less of the path you take, don’t just read the rules. Prac­tice. Find typo­graphic prob­lems and solve them. That’s the eas­i­est way to get bet­ter at typog­ra­phy.

The typo­graphic rules in this book aren’t lim­ited to par­tic­u­lar soft­ware. You can apply them in just about any type­set­ting pro­gram.

I’ve included spe­cific tips for five com­mon word proces­sors: Microsoft Word 2010 and 2013 (for Win­dows); Microsoft Word 2011 and 2016 (for OS X); and Corel Word­Per­fect X7 (for Win­dows). Tips for Word apply to all ver­sions unless spec­i­fied.

But the focus of this book is typog­ra­phy. It’s not intended to replace your soft­ware man­ual or help file. I’ve skipped tech­ni­cal issues that are espe­cially basic (e.g., how to apply bold or italic for­mat­ting) or espe­cially com­pli­cated (e.g., how to imple­ment paragraph and character styles).

Legal doc­u­ments lie along a con­tin­uum from more typo­graph­i­cally flex­i­ble (e.g., letterhead, research memos) to less (e.g., motions). Not every rec­om­men­da­tion in this book will suit every doc­u­ment. Use your judg­ment.

I some­times illus­trate typo­graphic ideas with exam­ples from Cal­i­for­nia lit­i­ga­tion because I’m famil­iar with it. But my rec­om­men­da­tions are meant to be adapt­able to any type of prac­tice in any juris­dic­tion.

That said, this book is not legal advice. If what I sug­gest con­flicts with laws or court rules in your juris­dic­tion, ignore me and obey the law—obvi­ously.

What qual­i­fies me to write about typog­ra­phy? I have a visual-arts degree from Har­vard, where I learned tra­di­tional let­ter­press print­ing and dig­i­tal font design. My typo­graphic work is in the per­ma­nent col­lec­tion of the Houghton Library at Har­vard. After col­lege, I worked as a font designer for sev­eral years. I then ran a web­site-design stu­dio in San Fran­cisco. Later, I went to law school at UCLA and prac­ticed civil lit­i­ga­tion in Los Ange­les for sev­eral years. These days, I work on a num­ber of writ­ing, design, and pub­lish­ing projects, all cen­tered around typog­ra­phy (includ­ing http://prac­ti­cal­ty­pog­ra­, a cousin of this book, aimed at a gen­eral audi­ence).

The golden thread con­nect­ing these activ­i­ties is my affec­tion for the printed word. Tech­nol­ogy changes, but the printed word remains irre­place­able.

Typog­ra­phy has been a source of enjoy­ment for me for over 25 years. I’m grate­ful that I’ve had this plat­form to share my enthu­si­asm. Since the first edi­tion of Typog­ra­phy for Lawyers was released, I’ve heard from law­yers, judges, law pro­fes­sors, and stu­dents all over the world about what a dif­fer­ence this mate­r­ial has made in their work. I hope that you also find it reward­ing, and that it adds sat­is­fac­tion—and maybe even some fun—to your prac­tice.

Matthew But­t­er­ick

A note on the type

In addi­tion to writ­ing this book, I also designed the four fonts that are used through­out— Equity, Concourse, Triplicate, and Advocate —which have emerged from my work in legal typog­ra­phy. These fonts can be licensed for your own projects.