Using Short Names

Legal documents routinely identify the parties and others by full name in the early passages and then create a short name for use in the rest of the document.Typewriter Make the most of this practice by thinking things through at the beginning of a case.  Whatever short name is selected should be one that works for the entire case and any appeal. Changing the name even once adds an opportunity for confusion that cannot benefit the client.

Some factors in selecting the short name:

  • The name needs to be short, the shorter the better if other requirements are met.  If there are word limits for briefing in the trial court or, more likely, on appeal, use a single word for the short name as it will appear often.
  • The name needs to be unmistakable.  Two similar alphabet soup names for plaintiff and defendant cannot aid comprehension.  If one party is the U.S. Air Force and the other is U.S. Airfoil Manufacturing Co., USAF and USAM would not be a good choice.  USAF and Airfoil would be clear.
  • Your client may have a preferred short name.  If so, use it.
  • The name of your client and others on your side needs to have positive or neutral connotations. For example, in a property dispute between a church and members of a group that split from the church, an attorney representing the church might call the client “Mother Church.”  This name breaks the one-word rule but reinforces a strong image with each repetition.

Do not use short names in judgments or other documents for which the accurate identity of the parties is essential.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Kristin Nador (creative common license, no changes made).