Hyperbole: The Language Of Love, Not Law

Hyperbole is the language of lovers, not lawyers. At least, that’s what one judge ruled in a Florida case dividing the assets of an unmarried couples living together as husband and wife.

“Adults have to view such language as momentarily expressive of intense and immediate emotion and desire… What a pallor the courts would cast on courtship if they were abole to hold otherwise,” said Judge Burnastein in response to submitted statements.

Emotional statements should not hold the same weight as extensively overthought logical ones. 

It’s a ruling (if not, in the least, a sentence) we should be remiss to forget. Hyperbole has no place in the practice of law, from writing to litigating to conducting firm business.

The most immediate negative impact of hyperbole can be seen in legal writing.

“There is nothing worse than reading a brief that is filled to the brim with over-the-top exposition and exploitive narrative detail. It does not bolster your argument – it dampens your argument,” writes Keith Lee of An Associate’s Mind.

Although a certain amount of confidence in your argument is a prerequisite to solid legal writing, this doesn’t imply embellishment. In fact, your credibility as a lawyer is diminished as soon as the opposing counsel or the presiding judge starts to believe your argument can only stand up with a fair amount of exaggerating it.

“By forcing a reader to navigate sentimental adjectives and impassioned turns of phrase, you are removing the focus of the brief from your argument to your prose. While such a tactic might hold some weight when making an oral argument before a jury, it instead comes across as amateurish and impertinent when delivered in a written brief to a court,” continues Lee of An Associate’s Mind.

Even still, oral arguments are not necessarily reinforced through overly bold statements. You might just leave your self open to critique once you start aggrandizing the facts. Whether on paper or in the courtroom, it’s best to leave the hyperbole for lovers, not litigators.

Finally, in day-to-day dealings, hyperbole also holds no weight. Whether it’s exaggerating your timesheet description, your ability to complete a project on time, or your performance in general, managers will appreciate frankness and honesty before overstatement of the facts.

A young associate who claims they are capable of writing a brief—exaggerates their previous experiences in doing so—will only personally and professionally suffer in the event the brief is subpar.

Evaluation reviews of your work, sooner or later, will include snide comments from a secretary or jealous colleague. The other version of the truth should not appear more valid than your own.

Whatever your business or legal assessment, ensure it is balanced, fair, and just—like the law, but often unlike love.

-WB

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