Recently, I saw a Dictionary of Legal Terms advertised on Amazon. I am sure there are many excellent dictionaries, including Black’s, that are useful. I have for many years now relied on Statsky’s Legal Thesaurus/Dictionary, which was a gift from a former boss.
At one time, I worked for Justice Marian P. Opala at the Oklahoma Supreme Court. Justice Opala was simply brilliant – I can think of no other description. He was precise in his choice of words, and worked diligently to craft his formal opinions for the Court. He was absolute stickler for legal writing perfection in every way imaginable, and he abhorred legalese.
One of my tasks was to proofread and make editing suggestions for his draft opinions. I found Statsky’s book to be invaluable. In one instance, I used it to find an alternate clause to edit an old common law phrase.
When Justice Opala asked how I had come up with the suggestion, I sweated bullets and expected to be chastised for my choice. Instead, he explained that he wanted to know how I had been able to come up with an alternative that did not change the legal meaning of his original phrase. He was impressed. I was relieved.
It would have been wonderful if I could have truthfully said that I came up with it completely on my own. Instead, I shared how I had found it in Statsky’s book.
Over time, Justice Opala got the notion that the book belonged to him. When I left his chambers for another position, Justice Opala protested when I packed it with my other belongings. I had to show him the flyleaf where my former boss had written a message to me to assure Justice Opala that it was indeed my book, and not his.
I can think of no greater endorsement than Justice Opala’s opinion. I take the book with me to legal writing seminars as a recommended addition to anyone’s reference library. And I keep a copy at the house and at the office. If you are looking for such a resource, I can endorse it without hesitation. -CCE
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