Getting lawyers to speak plainly goal of visiting law professor

Published 1 September 2003

Getting lawyers to use plain language might seem an impossible task, but to a Professor of Law at the University of Sydney visiting Lismore next week all is not lost.

Professor Peter Butt will be visiting Southern Cross University lecturing students in SCU’s School of Law and Justice on land law.

Professor Butt has been a law professor at Sydney University for 20 years and is the author of several books on property and real estate law, including the definitive text on the subject, called Land Law.

In addition to land law, Professor Butt specialises in the area of plain language and law, trying to persuade lawyers that documents can be written in plain English and still be legally watertight.

“You get the situation of people having to sign documents they can’t understand and they could be signing their life away,” he said.

He is the president of Clarity, an international organisation with members in 30 countries, which aims to simplify legal language. He recently published a book on this area called ‘Modern Legal Drafting’. He also co-wrote a book to explain the Mabo case in plain English, called ‘Mabo, Wik & Native Title’, published in 2001.

Professor Butt recently worked on the taskforce to see if housing finance could be made more affordable.

At the moment he is translating into plain English a treaty for self-government between three Canadian governments and several Indian tribes in Northern Canada. Professor Butt has taught at a number of overseas universities in the UK and US.

Also while in Lismore, Professor Butt will tour Bodhi Farm community, near the Channon, with resident and SCU Law School lecturer Warwick Fisher, to see first hand an example of the multiple occupancies which reshaped the local rural landscape after the Nimbin Aquarius Festival in 1973.

NB Professor Butt arrives in Lismore on Monday afternoon and would be available for interview Tuesday morning. He leaves Lismore on Thursday morning.

For more information contact Sara Crowe or Kath Duncan, SCU Media Liaison, Ph: 6620 3144 or M: 0439 858 057.