Practical Drafting Skills

30 March 2021 15:00

By Ismail Hussain SC

Durban: LexisNexis

2019 1st edition

R 555,45 (including VAT)

239 pages (available as e-book, hardcopy and online)

This is not your traditional legal textbook. It is a practical instruction manual passionately and ably put together by the author, former Judge of the High, Competition Appeal and Military Appeal Courts, a former member of the Electoral Commission and a well-known Legal Education and Development trainer, Ismail Hussain SC. The author brings his valuable theoretical and practical experience on board.

The manual encourages legal practitioners to draft their own legal documents by applying certain techniques. The techniques and methods of good drafting are presented and applied to case studies. It teaches the reader how to acquire the skills to become proficient in drafting letters, particulars of claim, special pleas, pleas, counterclaims, replications, notices of motion, founding affidavits, heads of argument and opinion writing.

The author places a lot of emphasis on the use of good vocabulary, plain language, punctuation, logical and critical thinking, sequence and chronology, not to mention concentration, improved memory skills and understanding all the facts of your client’s case. It is stressed in the book that little or no reliance should be placed on precedents.

The reader is advised to research legal principles, the latest judgments of the highest court and to get acquainted with the Practice Manual and Rules of the applicable court. This is sage advice.

The manual provides a step-by-step methodology to become a good drafter and takes the reader down to the basic details of formatting and layouts of documents, which includes font size, spacing, headings, paragraphs, sub-paragraphs and punctuation.

The basic techniques are applied to the given case studies. These techniques are invaluable and the reader is encouraged to practise them over and over again in order to achieve a high skill set.

The manual does not only contain teaching methods to draft legal documents in action and motion proceedings but also provides writing techniques for drafting Heads of Argument for trials, motion proceedings and appeals. The step-by-step basic techniques are invaluable.

Similarly, the manual contains ten steps that a lawyer could follow when called on to write a legal opinion. It contains drafting techniques that should be incorporated in producing a user-friendly document.

The manual is published in a soft cover in A4 size and may sit uncomfortably among the other textbooks in your library, but it is a must have. Purchase this manual, read and use it. It will only enhance your drafting skills set to which you can be proud of and which will impress your colleagues and clients.

Anver Bhayat BA (Law) LLB (UKZN) is a legal practitioner at Bhayat Attorneys Inc in Johannesburg.

This article was first published in De Rebus in 2021 (March) DR 22.

Order Practical Drafting Skills here.