Tabulated Lists: Legal Writing Examples

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Organizing information in legal documents clearly and effectively is crucial. One technique that enhances clarity and precision in legal document organization is the use of tabulated lists, referred to as “tabulated legal writing.” These lists help structure information in a way that is easily readable and accessible, thus improving the overall quality of legal documents.

What are tabulated lists? They include enumerated lists, bullet points, checklists, and comparison tables.  Tabulated lists are presently part of a practitioner’s toolbox of effective legal writing techniques. Back in the day, lawyers drafted their documents, by and large, in a pure essay-writing fashion–without lists or citations. However, experience proves that breaking up legal writing with effective tools can increase the ease of reading a legal document and, in turn, the reader’s comprehension. The caveat here is for the drafter not to write in outline form but instead to use an enumerated list, for example, to guide the reader.

This article delves into the importance of tabulated lists in legal writing, provides tabulated lists legal writing examples, and offers practical tips on effectively implementing them in legal documents.

  • Benefits of Using Tabulated Lists in Legal Documents
  • Common Types of Tabulated Lists for Effective Legal Writing
  • How to Create Effective Tabulated Lists in Legal Documents
  • Examples of Tabulated Lists in Legal Writing (or Legal Writing Format Examples)

Understanding the language and how to use tabulated lists can significantly improve your legal writing skills and make your documents more professional.

Let’s dive deeper into the various aspects of tabulated lists in legal writing.

lawyer writing legal document with colleague, taking notes

Introduction to Tabulated Lists in Legal Writing

Tabulated lists are invaluable tools in legal writing, promoting clarity and precision. By organizing information into structured formats, tabulated lists help writers and readers navigate complex legal documents more efficiently. Whether you are drafting a contract, a legal memo, or a brief for litigation, the use of tabulated lists can make your points clearer and more persuasive.

Historically, critics have claimed that legal writing is too dense and difficult to follow. By integrating tabulated lists, drafters can present information in an organized manner, breaking down intricate details into digestible parts. This approach assists in simplifying complex legal arguments and ensures that critical points are easily identifiable. Lawyers, judges, and clients alike benefit from this heightened readability and the efficient presentation of information.

This article will explore various tabulated lists legal writing examples and best practices. We will delve into their benefits, common types used in legal documents, and legal drafting tips. These practical tips should assist drafters in producing readily understandable documents. By the end of this guide, you will be well-equipped to enhance the clarity and coherence of your legal documents through the strategic use of tabulated lists.

Infographic of Tabulated List Benefits

Benefits of Using Tabulated Lists in Legal Documents

Tabulated lists offer several significant benefits in legal writing, enhancing legal documents’ overall clarity, organization, and effectiveness. Here are some key advantages:

Clarity and Readability

Tabulated lists break down complex information into systematic, easy-to-read segments with plain language. This structure helps readers grasp key points and details quickly, making lengthy and intricate legal documents more accessible.

Efficient Organization

Organizing information into lists helps maintain a logical flow, ensuring that related items are grouped together. This approach reduces the likelihood of misinterpretations and aids in tracking multiple related aspects of a legal argument or policy.

Enhanced Persuasiveness

Clarity in language can be as powerful as the content in legal arguments and legal briefs. Lawyers can make their points more compelling by presenting arguments or evidence in a tabulated format. Highlighting facts or legal precedents in lists can help underline an argument’s strength and coherence.

Effective Comparison and Analysis

Legal professionals must frequently compare statutes, case laws, or contractual terms. Tabulated lists facilitate side-by-side comparisons, allowing for more effective analysis and clearer presentation of similarities and differences.

Streamlined Editing and Review

Legal documents often undergo multiple revisions. Lists make editing more straightforward by isolating specific points, making it easier to identify and correct errors or update individual items without disrupting the entire text.

Improved Focus for the Reader

Readers, including judges and clients, often skim through documents to find pertinent information. Tabulated lists and citations direct attention to essential elements, creating a clear visual hierarchy that differentiates major points from supporting details.

By incorporating tabulated lists, legal writers can significantly enhance their documents’ clarity, organization, and persuasive power. This strategy not only aids in better communication but also ensures that arguments are presented in the most compelling manner possible.

infographic of tabulated lists legal writing example

Common Types of Tabulated Lists for Effective Legal Writing

Tabulated lists in legal writing come in various forms, each serving distinct purposes to enhance the organization and clarity of legal documents. Below are some common types of tabulated lists and their uses:

Enumerated Lists

Enumerated lists are sequentially numbered and typically outline steps, procedures, or ranked items. This list type is great for presenting clear, ordered information where the sequence matters.

For example, the elements of negligence are:

  • Duty of care
  • Breach of duty
  • Causation
  • Damages

Bullet Points

Bullet points are ideal for highlighting items where the sequence is not essential. This format provides a clear, easy-to-read presentation of related points or items. See the sample below:

Key provisions of the contract include:

  • Termination clause
  • Confidentiality agreement
  • Force majeure clause


Checklists are useful in procedural or compliance contexts, where tasks or criteria need to be systematically verified or tracked. Checklists ensure that no critical step or requirement is overlooked. For example:

Before filing a motion, confirm the following:

  • The document is signed and dated
  • All exhibits are attached
  • Filing fee is paid

Comparison Tables

Comparison tables are used to present and contrast different elements, such as case laws, statutes, or contractual terms. This format allows for easy side-by-side comparisons, making distinctions and similarities clear.

CriteriaCase Law ACase Law B
IssueIssue in Case Law AIssue in Case Law B
RulingRuling in Case Law ARuling in Case Law B

Numbered Headings

Numbered headings are frequently employed in lengthy documents to structure sections and subsections. This helps guide the reader through complex information and makes referencing specific sections easier. For example:

  1. Background
    • 1.1 Historical Context
    • 1.2 Legal Precedents
  2. Analysis
    • 2.1 Argument
    • Counter-Argument


Flowcharts visualize the steps in a process or the progression of a legal argument. They are particularly useful in illustrating procedures or decision trees. For example:

The flowchart below outlines the process for handling a breach of contract claim:

Identify breach → Notify party → Attempt resolution → File lawsuit if needed

Employing these varied forms of tabulated lists can significantly improve the organization, readability, and overall impact of your legal writing. They help ensure that your document is comprehensive and user-friendly, promoting better understanding and more effective communication.

infographic of flowchart and guideline on how to use tabulated lists

How to Create Effective Tabulated Lists in Legal Documents (or Legal Writing Format Examples)

Creating effective tabulated lists in legal documents involves more than just breaking information into bullet points or tables. Below are samples for formatting lists in legal documents. Here are detailed guidelines to ensure your tabulated lists enhance clarity, readability, and persuasiveness:

Choose the Right Type of List

Before diving into formatting, determine the type of list that best fits your content. Enumerated lists work well for ordered steps or ranking items. Bullet points are ideal for unranked items that need grouping. Tables are suited for comparative data, while checklists are perfect for procedural tasks.

Use Clear and Consistent Headings

Headings and subheadings should clearly describe the content within each list section. Consistent formatting helps guide the reader through the document. See the subheading example below:

Key Clauses in the Contract:

  • Termination Clause
  • Confidentiality Agreement
  • Force Majeure Clause

Be Concise and Specific

Each item in a list should be concise and to the point. Avoid lengthy, complex sentences that can confuse the reader. Example:

  • Less Effective: “The defendant exhibited behavior that could be interpreted as obstructive, which might include but is not limited to not complying with the court’s orders.”
  • More Effective: “The defendant obstructed justice by:
    1. Ignoring court orders
    2. Refusing to provide required documents

Provide Adequate Context

Introduce your lists with a brief explanation to provide context. A leading sentence can help frame the following information, making it easier for the reader to understand its relevance.

For example:  To establish a claim of negligence, the plaintiff must prove the following elements:

  • Duty of care
  • Breach of duty
  • Causation
  • Damages

Ensure Visual Clarity

Format lists to enhance language and readability. Use bullet points, numbers, and indentation effectively. Space out lists properly, and use bold or italics to highlight important terms. Example:

  1. Duty of Care: The defendant must owe a duty of care to the plaintiff.
  2. Breach of Duty: The defendant must breach that duty of care.
  3. Causation: The breach must cause harm to the plaintiff.
  4. Damages: The plaintiff must suffer damages as a result of the breach.

Optimize for Digital and Print Formats

Ensure your tabulated lists are accessible and clear in digital and print formats. Use web-friendly fonts and consider how lists will appear on different devices if the document will be accessed electronically. A standard font for litigation is 12-point Times New Roman. For printed documents, ensure list items do not break awkwardly across pages.

Edit and Review

Finally, proofreading is crucial. Double-check for consistency in list formatting, such as alignment, numbering, and capitalization. Ensure there are no typos or grammatical errors. Lists should be clear and professional.

By following these guidelines, you can create effective tabulated lists that enhance the clarity and impact of your legal writing. Well-structured lists can make complex information manageable, ensuring your audience can easily understand and engage with your content.

Concluding Tabulated Lists Legal Writing Examples

The strategic use of tabulated lists in legal writing is an effective technique that significantly enhances clarity and precision. Incorporating various types of lists and citations—such as enumerated lists, bullet points, checklists, and comparison tables—into legal documents can transform lengthy and complex information into a more digestible and organized format.

The tabulated lists legal writing examples present information logically and emphasize critical points, facilitating quicker comprehension for readers such as judges, clients, and other legal professionals. This organized presentation is crucial in legal documents, where clarity and precision are paramount.

By breaking down intricate legal arguments, procedures, and details into well-structured lists, legal writers can ensure their documents are thorough yet easy to navigate. Lists direct the reader’s focus to essential elements, helping avoid misunderstandings and ensuring that every pertinent detail is noticed. This approach is particularly beneficial in high-stakes scenarios such as court submissions, legal briefs, and contractual agreements, where accuracy and readability can directly influence outcomes.

Adopting tabulated lists aligns with the traditional legal education principles of grammar, logic, and rhetoric, emphasizing logical structuring and clear communication. Tabulated lists are indispensable tools in a legal writer’s toolkit, whether used for outlining legal elements, procedural steps, or comparative analysis. They embody the core attributes of effective legal writing skills: clarity, conciseness, and cogency.

As you integrate these techniques into your legal drafting process, remember to choose the appropriate type of list for your content, maintain consistency in formatting, provide adequate context, and always edit carefully. The result will be legal documents that are not only compelling but also facilitate a deeper understanding for all readers.

In summary, tabulated lists are a simple yet powerful mechanism to promote clarity and precision in legal language. By thoughtfully incorporating these lists into your documents, you can enhance readability, streamline complex information, and deliver your legal arguments with greater impact.

For further information on improving your legal writing skills, review our Course, Legal Writing Launch.

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