Legal professionals often find themselves in the role of a lexicographer when drafting legal documents such as statutes, contracts, and wills. The lexicographer rule dictates that definitions provided by the drafter must be carefully followed to interpret the document accurately. This rule has its origins dating back to the late Roman Republic and has been integrated into American law since the 19th century.

While the lexicographer rule can be helpful in clarifying the meaning of terms within legal documents, there are potential pitfalls that legal drafters must be aware of. One of the risks is the misuse of definitions to obscure rather than clarify the meaning of a provision. Drafters may intentionally hide meanings by separating definitions from the operative context, leading to confusion and potential litigation.

Furthermore, legal drafters must be cautious not to deviate too far from the ordinary meaning of terms, as this can lead to misunderstandings and disputes. The principle of substitutability, which requires definitions to seamlessly fit into the context of the document, is essential for maintaining clarity and coherence in legal writing.

Additionally, the lexicographer rule can be taken to extremes, as seen in the example of defining basic terms like “and/or” in intricate detail. This level of complexity can create unnecessary confusion and complicate the interpretation of legal documents.

Overall, while the lexicographer rule serves a valuable purpose in legal practice, it is essential for legal professionals to exercise restraint and clarity when defining terms in legal documents. By avoiding misuse and misinterpretation of definitions, drafters can ensure that their documents are accurately understood and minimize the risk of litigation and disputes.