I was an English major in college.
I remember getting multiple assignments for 500 word essays. These essays would generally fill two typewritten pages, double spaced. 500 words is a comfortable length for an essay. It doesn’t take too long to write a 500 word essay, which means it also doesn’t take too long to grade a 500 word essay. The length is well suited for the development of one or two ideas, but such a paper isn’t so long that you end up writing a book in order to express yourself.
Brevity is one of the hallmarks of powerful, effective writing. Take too long to get to your point, and you’ll lose your audience. Get in, get out, and move on. If you’re brief, your audience will be more interested in what you have to say. Be concise. Get to the point. Don’t dawdle.
That all changes when you get to law school. Keeping things interesting is not a hallmark of legal writing. The law is concerned with razor sharp precision – and not with brevity. Sure, take all the time you need to make your point. But make it carefully, precisely, and thoroughly.
California foreclosure law is complex. Detailed. Exhaustive. And the legal writing involved in foreclosure is, well, cumbersome.
Here’s an example. Most promissory notes, or loans, provide that if the borrower misses a payment, then the lender can “accelerate” the loan. When a loan is “accelerated,” all of the past and future payments are due now. This means that a borrower can miss a single payment, and then the lender can “accelerate” the loan so that the entire loan balance is due and payable now. The law allows for such acceleration in most instances.
But the law also provides borrowers with a safety net. If a borrower pays all the past due amounts, then in most cases a borrower can “reinstate” a loan. This means a borrower can usually reverse any “acceleration” so that a loan resumes the same payment schedule that existed before the borrower defaulted. This principle is true both for home loans as well as many other types of loans.
The law that allows a borrower to “reverse” an acceleration is found at California Civil Code section 2924c. The full text of that statute can’t be reprinted here – it’s too long. If you doubt that, then try reading it. You will find – and this is true – that the very first sentence of that statute consists of 375 words.
375 words! Think of it. And that’s only the opening sentence. The entire statute is much longer than that. Plowing through that statute requires a substantial amount of time, a trained mind and a skilled eye. In everyday writing, most sentences are something like ten or fifteen words at the most. Fifty words is a really long sentence. And a hundred words seems like a book. Lawyers refer to “legal briefs” with good reason. If you’re summarizing something like this foreclosure statute, then anything shorter is a complete bonus.