A Guide to the Best Fonts for Legal Documents

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best legal font for legal documents

Why do legal fonts matter? After all, you’ve worked hard to become a lawyer—not a designer. But did you know that the best legal fonts can better engage your audience, communicate more effectively, and impact how others perceive your law firm’s brand? Also, some courts have outlined the fonts that they accept, which lawyers need to follow. Lawyers spend a vast amount of time drafting legal briefs, memos, court documents, and more every day. Paying attention to how the words look will help your legal writing stand out and persuade your reader better. 

In this blog post, we’ll discuss why legal fonts matter in legal documents, and the best fonts and font sizes to use in legal documents and your law firm’s website. We’ll also include some tidbits on how understanding the difference between serif and sans serif fonts can help you select the right font.

Legal fonts: Why they matter in legal documents 

First impressions count

As a standard font for legal documents, Times New Roman (along with Arial and Helvetica) is one of the most commonly used fonts. While there is nothing inherently wrong with these fonts, using them signals a lack of choice—in other words, apathy. As attorney and Harvard-trained typographer Matthew Butterick writes in Typography for Lawyers, “Times New Roman is not a font choice so much as the absence of a font choice, like the blackness of deep space is not a color.” In short, choose another font to show your legal clients and readers that you care about your legal writing. 

Readability

law firm focus

When selecting a legal font, keep in mind how your reader is going to read your legal document. What works for a court pleading may not work for a contract that your client will sign through a digital app like DocuSign. Also, more and more lawyers, legal professionals, and even clients work on the go from anywhere, even on a mobile device. This means it’s more important than ever to optimize legal documents so they’re easy to read on any screen. Using Times New Roman or Arial in font sizes that are too small doesn’t cut it anymore. 

Fun fact: Serif fonts are typically more suitable for printed legal documents, while sans serif fonts are easier to read on screens.

By ensuring your legal documents are as readable as possible for your clients, other attorneys, and judges, etc., you’re showing that you care about the user experience. This contributes to a positive perception of your law firm brand.

Your law firm brand

Think about your favorite brands and the products you use regularly. If all the content on their website, labels, and marketing materials were in a standard font like Times New Roman or Arial, how would your perception of the brand change? Chances are the brand would become a lot more boring and less appealing. Similarly, you need to use legal fonts that reflect your law firm brand in your legal documents. Ideally, you’ll already have some law firm fonts to work with based on your firm’s brand. But in general, when drafting legal briefs, contracts, memos, etc., go with a clean, professional-looking font that is easy to read and appropriate for your brand. 

Supreme Court rules on legal document fonts  

denver federal court

Always check with your jurisdiction for specific rules on accepted legal fonts. For example, The US Supreme Court requires that Century family fonts must be used in all briefs. Recently, the Supreme Court of Virginia released a new list of acceptable fonts. And The US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit states that lawyers should avoid using Times New Roman—so their audience will be less likely to scan legal briefs quickly without retaining the document’s contents. The Florida Supreme Court also recently released new appellate rules regarding fonts for lawyers. The new rules include changing page and word count limits for legal briefs and appeals filings for documents produced on computers. Specifically, they require that lawyers use Arial or Bookman Old Style in 14-point to ensure readability on monitors.

Serif vs. sans serif fonts 

Understanding the difference between serif and sans serif fonts can help you decide which legal fonts to use in your legal documents. Serif fonts have a decorative taper at the beginning and end of the letter. In contrast, sans serif fonts do not. Serif fonts are traditionally used in newspapers, magazines, and books. They give off a more “traditional” look and convey trustworthiness and reliability. In contrast, sans serif fonts are more modern and simple. They’re also easier to read on screens. When you use a sans serif typeface, your law firm’s brand could come across as more approachable and relatable to a younger audience.

Serif fonts for legal documents:

  • Century Schoolbook 
  • Georgia
  • Baskerville
  • Bookman Old Style
  • Times New Roman alternatives like Equity, Tiempos, and Verdigris

Sans serif fonts for legal documents:

  • Century Gothic
  • Helvetica
  • Helvetica alternatives like Neue Haas Grotesk, Atlas, and Concourse
  • Calibri alternatives like Concourse, Guardian Sans, Seravek, and Fort

Learn about attorney and Harvard-trained typographer Matthew Butterick’s font recommendations for lawyers. 

What is the best font size for legal documents?

At minimum, your legal documents should use font size 12. However, increasing the font size to 14 will make a huge difference in readability, especially when reading on a screen. Also, make sure there is enough space between the lines and paragraphs so your audience can easily read the document, even if it’s long. 

What is the best font for law firm websites?

Images of law firm websites

Web fonts for law firm websites and email

As mentioned above, sans serif fonts are typically used on websites as they’re easier to read on screens, especially mobile devices. More importantly, you need to use a web font for your law firm website. This ensures the text appears the way you want it when your reader comes across your website or legal email. Examples of web fonts include Lato, Open Sans, and Roboto. While web fonts differ from universally supported, web-safe fonts like Arial and Times New Roman, the majority of web browsers and operating systems support web fonts. Web fonts also give your law firm more flexibility and creativity to choose a font that best reflects your brand.

Licensing fonts

You may be wondering, “Why do I need to license fonts?” In the past, font designers created fonts for specific uses, like printing for a specific book. Now, with the rise of online publishing and digital fonts, every font is considered a software product. In general, the cost of licensing fonts depends on factors like the number of people and devices using the fonts, and even how many views a website gets.  

To be clear, all word processing and document creation software come with free fonts that you can use in legal documents. Online content management platforms also come with a good set of web fonts that you can use on your law firm’s website. However, you may want to upgrade to a unique professional font that better suits your law firm’s brand and image. In which case, you’ll need to purchase your chosen font with the right End-User License Agreement. The agreement should outline the kinds of licenses offered as well as the rules and limits you need to follow when using the fonts.

Learn more about licensing fonts and using fonts legally.

Choosing the best legal font requires careful consideration 

Although an often-overlooked aspect of legal document creation and law firm branding, legal fonts matter. While the best legal font choice varies depending on your law firm and how your legal document or content is published and read, you need to ensure your audience can easily read, understand, and retain the information in your legal documents. You also need to communicate your content effectively to your audience, in a way that accurately reflects your law firm’s brand. Not to mention making sure your font choice adheres to your jurisdiction’s Supreme Court rules. That way, your legal document can better engage your audience and elevate your law firm’s brand.

Categorized in: Marketing

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