For the past eight years, I’ve had the same black, beat-up, dog-eared dictionary on my desk. I totally admit that using a physical book rather than an online version is old school. But I find the physical aspect of pausing, flipping to the entry, and reading it so helpful. There are times that in that process, I realize the exact right word.
This dictionary is Black’s Law Dictionary. (Although I do keep a Webster’s Dictionary and Thesaurus also on my desk.)
When I started law school, Black’s Law Dictionary was on my required books list. And I remember rolling my eyes and thinking that I didn’t need a freakin’ dictionary just about the law. I have been a voracious reader since I was little. For most of my adult life, I’ve read about a book a week. And it’s rare that I come across words that are foreign to me.
But eight years later, I remember sitting at Bernie’s in the Noe Valley neighborhood of San Francisco. I had my coffee and I opened my textbook to do my reading for the first day of law school. And the words on the page were super foreign. About every fourth or fifth word was a word that I didn’t know what it meant. I was frustrated in a matter of minutes. And so, I trudged over to Alley Cat Books and bought a copy of Black’s Law Dictionary.
Those first few months of law school, that trusty dictionary was my BFF. Over and over, I looked up words that I had never heard before. And slowly but surely, I started to learn legalese. And by the end of my first semester, I could think, write, and understand legal jargon.
The reality is all lawyers start like I did. They are students flipping between a textbook and a dictionary to translate legalese into English. It’s not a language that any of us is born understanding. Just like any language, it takes time, effort, and desire for it to become second nature.
You probably know that I strongly support the movement to keep legal jargon to a minimum. But as a creative business owner you’ll still encounter it in:
- terms of service
- license agreements
- Copyright Office publications
- legal blogs
- and many other places
There are reasons, good and bad, that legal jargon continues and will continue to be used. I’m not going to debate those merits right now. But if you have five minutes watch this TED talk about someone else’s quest to eliminate legal jargon.
And even with the movement to minimize legal jargon, it’s not going away anytime soon. And because of that, you need to understand it. Dealing with the legal stuff isn’t fun, but critical to your creative business. So I’m working on a solution. And my solution isn’t shipping each and every one of you a Black’s Law Dictionary.
The solution I’ve landed on is a legalese translator exclusively for creative businesses. And it’s one of the features of the artist’s Courtyard.
You can turn to it, to ask:
My contract says the risk of loss falls on me. What am I responsible for?
And be told,
In a contract, the party with the risk of loss agrees to be responsible for any damage, injury, or loss to the item(s) covered in the contract.
Kiffanie, your website name is the artist’s J.D. What the heck is a J.D.?
And learn that,
J.D. is an abbreviation for Juris Doctor, the law degree given at the completion of American law school.
Sometimes you use the word agreement and sometimes you use contract. Are they the same thing?
And discover that,
An agreement is when two or more parties come to an oral or written understanding. This understanding covers actions, what will be exchanged, and rights and responsibilities. An agreement often leads to a contract.
But a contract is a legally binding agreement entered into by two or more parties. To be valid, there must be an offer, acceptance of that offer, and an exchange of consideration.
So no, they aren’t exactly the same thing.
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What term would you love me to cover in this legalese translator? Let me know in the comments below and I’ll provide you with a sneak-peak of the translator’s answer.