Official Magazine of the Denver Bar Association

It’s Complicated ~ By Keith Lewis

The Docket roots out wasteful, old-fashioned and meaningless procedures that remain affixed to our profession so as to annoy us way too often.

The legal system has changed drastically since Christopher Columbus Langdell, Dean of Harvard Law in the 1880s, developed the law school curriculum under which we all learned. Much has changed since the beginning of the electronic age: We now use word processing software to draft our pleadings and motions and e-filing software to submit them. And let’s be honest: There is ample cutting and pasting going on behind the scenes.

Quill_EDITHowever, wasteful and meaningless phrases like, “Witnesseth” or “Plaintiff hereby incorporates paragraphs 1-12 of the complaint as if fully stated herein,” should be left out of the pasting process entirely. We know that these are words lack substance, so why do we continue to insert them into our contracts and pleadings? Are we just blindly following tradition?

Either we are billing (and wasting) our clients’ time with this nonsensical language, or we are wasting our own. Regardless of how you allocate the wastes-of-time in your office, these little things are killing the legal system. Clients think we are full of it — and we are when we use language like this. That’s why so many of them are usurping legal counsel and resolving their disputes alone. D

K-Lewis-headshot(2)Keith Lewis is a Denver-based appellate and trial attorney. He can be reached at

The It’s Complicated column is making its official debut in The Docket. Originally the collective idea of Keith Lewis and Ryan Jardine, it seeks to poke fun at the antiquated (and otherwise inexplicable) traditions that the practice of law continues to uphold. It encompasses the awkward, the funny and the self-deprecating. Please email submissions and ideas to Jessica Volz, Editor of The Docket, at

3 Responses to “It’s Complicated ~ By Keith Lewis”

  1. Robert Duncan

    Great idea, but no substance to this column, which summarily discards some language. I agree, but the column does not explain why this word and phrase are outdated and does not give any alternatives.

    Robert Duncan

    • The Docket Editor

      Thank you very much for your constructive criticism, Robert. We hope that the column will evolve in a manner that delves into why words, phrases and customs are antiquated and offer potential alternatives.

  2. Keith Lewis

    Thanks for reading, Robert. Yes, space is limited in this intentionally pithy article, but you are right. It’s an interesting thought to look at potential alternatives. What do you think?


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