Keynote sessions

Joseph Kimble

Joseph Kimble

Distinguished Professor Emeritus

No, the law does not normally require legalese
The legal department of a company or agency has been the graveyard of too many plain-language projects. The lawyers dismiss the work as not meeting the legal requirements, which are often not cited, specified, or explained. And non-lawyers naturally tend to accept this judgment. They shouldn't — at least not without respectfully asking some questions. Professor Kimble will remind us (on video) of how narrow the legal constraints typically are. After this session, you won't get fooled again.


The Hon Michael Kirby AC CMG

Patron of Clarity

Clarity in legal language in English: is it possible?
In this address, Michael Kirby, International Patron Of Clarity, will explore the effort to inject greater clarity into the notoriously troublesome area of legal prose, including the text of legislation and the language of judicial reasons. He will suggest some of the explanations for complexity. The basic explanation is the dual character of the English language. We speak as our Anglo-Saxon ancestors did in a Germanic tongue. But we write as the clerks to the Norman Kings wrote in a Franco-Latin way. This difference between the language of the kitchen and of the office or courthouse lies at the heart of the often needless complexity of official English. Getting lawyers to write simply and clearly involves the observance of a few simple rules. These rules should be taught in legal offices, law school lecture rooms and government departments. The urgency of embracing clear English is enhanced by the advent of word processors and computerised precedents. Heaven forbid that we should be stuck for centuries with obscure precedents immortalised by computer technology. So the challenge is urgent and important. Clarity International plays a vital role in promoting the use of clear language. It is a global challenge. It affects all languages everywhere. But none more than the English language, with its unique history and global coverage. 

Una Jagose

Solicitor-General, New Zealand

An Advocate for Plain Language
When Una Jagose, Solicitor-General, began practice as a lawyer the Acts Interpretation Act urged: 

“Every Act, and every provision or enactment thereof, shall be deemed remedial, whether its immediate purport is to direct the doing of anything Parliament deems to be for the public good, or to prevent or punish the doing of anything it deems contrary to the public good, and shall accordingly receive such fair, large, and liberal construction and interpretation as will best ensure the attainment of the object of the Act and of such provision or enactment according to its true intent, meaning, and spirit” 

Now, the Interpretation Act says:  

“The meaning of an enactment must be ascertained from its text and in the light of its purpose.” 

The NZ statute book is being overhauled in favour of plain language. Have other parts of the legal system followed suit?  Una will outline her ambition for clarity as Government’s chief advocate and adviser and chief executive of Crown Law. 


Sarah McCoubrey

Strategist on access to justice issues

Can Plain Language Change Our Approach To Conflict?
Plain language offers the revolutionary potential to change the way society understands conflict. Shifting from legal expertise in solving disputes to citizen's management of everyday interactions will minimize the anxiety, cost and consequences of legal issues.

As a component of Preventative Lawyering, lawyers who use plain language in their relationships with clients, break down the intimidation and confusion that legal terminology causes. Building the capacity of clients to understand and confidently participate in legal issues, lawyers empower people to take early, simple steps to reduce conflict and remove the fear and shame of legal disputes.

Sharing knowledge of legal terms and processes has the potential to bring clients into an active conversation about legal resolution. Shifts in medical and financial practice have transformed the expert-client relationship into a decision-making partnership. Law has not yet seen the same sharing of expertise. Plain language principles in all client communication would empower people to be active in their legal disputes, pursuing early resolution.

Sharing control of the language of law could transform the way society talks about conflict, opening up new possibilities for resolution.

Dr Paul Wood

Dr Paul Wood

Mindset Coach, Motivational Speaker, & Leadership Specialist

What’s your prison?
Dr Paul Wood is an expert in helping people overcome the barriers that hold them back from being the best versions of themselves and advocating for what they passionately believe in.

Paul will be using his own journey from delinquent to doctor to illustrate the universal steps involved in overcoming adversity and reaching our potential. This will involve looking at the power of clarity of purpose, literacy, and choice in our lives. Paul's story will leave you certain of our ability to strive for excellence and make a difference, regardless of your circumstances.

Paul’s presentation style is dynamic, humorous, and deeply authentic. His presentation will leave you with a better understanding of how to become the best version possible of yourself — and how to help others do the same.