Plain language is the key to ensuring effective legal practice, according to a new Churchill Fellowship report.
Titled, 'A Study into Best Practice Community Legal Information', the report was authored by the Victoria Law Foundation's executive director, Joh Kirby, and calls for legislation obliging legal organisations to communicate clearly and effectively in order to help people avoid legal issues.
The report also recognises the need to increase legal literacy within the broader community.
"Victoria Law Foundation and other organisations in Australia and overseas have been working to promote plain language for many years," said Kirby.
"However, legislation, unlike other initiatives, has the advantage of longevity. With appropriate incentives for compliance, I'd suggest it is more likely than any other method to have a long-term impact on the quality of public information."
The report summarises the findings of Kirby's 2010 Churchill Fellowship, for which she travelled to Canada, the USA, Sweden and England to examine the work of overseas organisations in the development of plain language and community legal information.
The United States introduced The Plain Writing Act 2010 in October last year, which requires federal agencies to produce "clear government communication that the public can understand and use". South Africa's consumer protection legislation places a similar obligation on key organisations. Other countries, such as the UK, have successfully established awards and standards which promote plain language.
"There is a lot we can learn from these countries, which could help us to bring about the systemic change that is required in Australia," said Kirby. "Legislation, I believe, is an important step."
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