June 29, 2020

Writing Skills

June 29, 2020

Keeping Up With the Law

June 22, 2020

Assets as a Test for Security for Costs

June 19, 2020

What is This Case About?

June 11, 2020

Cross-Examining Child Witnesses

May 20 , 2020

Formal Offers

May 13 , 2020

Vexatious or Self-Represented Litigants

January 7, 2020

G.S.T. and Costs

December 20 , 2019

Electronically Navigating the

October 7 , 2019

Questioning is a Bad Word

July 29 , 2019

Dismissal for Delay

May 7 , 2019

Rule 4.31 Fallacies

March 18 , 2019

More Dangers in Oral Fee Agreements

February 11 , 2019

Weir-Jones Decisions

January 9 , 2019

Discouraging Settlements

November 30, 2018

European Court Helps You Twice?

November 23 , 2018

Courts Overruling Tribunals

November 16 , 2018

New Evidence on Appeal

October 30 , 2018

Schedule C's Role

July 17 , 2018

Loopholes in Enforcing Settlements

May 7 , 2018

Enforcement of Procedure Rules

April 16, 2018

Limping Lawsuits are Often

April 3 , 2018

Court of Appeal Tips for
Summary Decisions

March 19, 2018

Serious Dangers in Chambers

February 13 , 2018

Court Backlog

December 18 , 2017

Lowering the Status of Courts

September 15 , 2017

Access to Court Decisions

July 4 , 2017

Strictissimi Juris

June 14 , 2017

Why Don't Your Clients Settle?

June 5 , 2017

Gap in Rules About Parties

June 5, 2017

Personal Costs Against

April 26, 2017

Clogged Courts

April 11, 2017

Dismissal for Want of

January 6, 2017

Incomplete Disclosure

December 15, 2016


November 23, 2016

Is Contract Interpretation Law?



Côté’s Commentaries

© J.E. Côté 2016-2020


One skill which most lawyers should improve, is writing clearly and simply. Clients will be thankful. Clarity and easy reading may stop them from suing you.

Any time is a good time to improve writing skills. This is an especially good time, because of covid-19 isolation. You have probably communicated less face-to-face recently, and more in writing.

Reread some of your communications, especially those over a month old, and those sent to non-lawyers. Select your spouse or a trusted sympathetic relative or friend, and ask her or him to read them as well.

Copy or scan each communication. Score each one for these 3 qualities:

  1. ease of reading
  2. clarity.
  3. preventing misunderstanding

And maybe one more quality:

  1. persuasiveness.

Then go back to see which particular passages in each communication could use improvement. Flag those. Watch out for double negatives, and the passive voice. Ask your trusted reader how to improve the communications. But do not at once start correcting words or phrases. First see whether rearranging, or rewriting afresh, would improve the communication.

If length or arrangement needs fixing, take a fresh sheet and rewrite the entire communication, or at least key paragraphs of it. Try to write simply. Do not try to be impressive or formal. To shorten the communication, draft in pen or pencil. Do not use a computer unless you are a slow typist.

– Hon. J.E. Côté


The Commentaries are intended to call the attention of lawyers to promising or threatening developments in the law, in civil procedure, in developing their skills, or simply to describe something curious, funny or intriguing.

Justice Côté recently retired from the Court of Appeal of Alberta and currently acts as an arbitrator, mediator, or referee under Rules 6.44 and 6.45 of the Alberta Rules of Court.

He may be contacted through Juriliber at email: or phone 780-424-5345.