My subject today is "legal literacy," but to put it that way requires immediate clarification, for that phrase has a wide range of possible meanings with many of which we shall have nothing to do. At one end of its spectrum of significance, for example, "legal literacy" means full competence in legal discourse, both as reader and as writer. This kind of literacy is the object of a professional education, and it requires not only a period of formal schooling but years of practice as well. Indeed, as is also the case with other real languages, the ideal of perfect competence in legal language can never be attained; the practitioner is always learning about his language and about the world, he is in a sense always remaking both, and these processes never come to an end. What this sort of professional literacy entails, and how it is to be talked about, are matters of interest to lawyers and law teachers, but are not our subject here. The other end of the spectrum of "legal literacy" would mean the capacity to recognize legal words and locutions as foreign to oneself, as part of the world of the Law. A person literate in this sense would know that there was a world of language and action called "law," but little more about it: certainly not enough to have any real access to it.
White, James Boyd. "The Invisible Discourse of the Law: Reflections on Legal Literacy and General Education." U. Colo. L. Rev. 54 (1983): 143-59.