How to Identify the Parts of a Legal Document


Legal documents, whether they're a judge's ruling on a case or contracts for services, can be woefully complicated. This is even more true if you're not used to reading them. However, while there isn't a standard system for assigning parts to a legal document (more so than the title, introduction, body and conclusion of any other sort of document), there are ways you can pick apart legal documents to figure out which sections are geared towards what information.

Things You'll Need

  • Legal document
  • Look for the table of contents. Every legal document should have as the first or second page a table of contents that lays out on a page-by-page basis where the different parts of a legal document are. The table of contents will only break the document down into broad parts; if you need things more specific, you're going to need to read through it.

  • Examine the subtitles. Within each individual section of the legal document there will be subtitles. These are used to help guide the reader like a flow chart, moving from one part to another and breaking up the dense material into smaller, easier to digest sections. Using a highlighter on the subtitles can make it much easier to locate the sections you want in a hurry as well.

  • Read through the document in its entirety. Sometimes you won't find indications in big titles that tell you much about the contents; you need to actually go through in detail and find which sections of the document discuss which issues. Generally, the document will have an introduction, body, conclusions, and recommendations; the sub-sections of the document may be organized the same way.


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