Why Is Legal Paper Longer

Why Is Legal Paper Longer?

In the world of paper sizes, the standard letter size is 8.5 inches by 11 inches, while the legal paper size measures 8.5 inches by 14 inches. The legal paper size appears to be a bit longer than the letter size, leaving many people wondering why this discrepancy exists. In this article, we will explore the historical background, practical applications, and common misconceptions surrounding the legal paper size. Additionally, we will address some frequently asked questions to provide a comprehensive understanding of this unique paper size.

Historical Background:

The legal paper size originated in England during the reign of King Henry VIII. In 1566, a royal decree established this new paper size, designed to accommodate legal documents, contracts, and court records. The size was specifically chosen to fit the records of court proceedings, as well as the legal briefs and other documents used in legal proceedings. Over time, this paper size became known as “legal” due to its association with the legal system.

Practical Applications:

The longer legal paper size provides several practical benefits. First and foremost, it offers additional space for written content. Lawyers, legal professionals, and other individuals working with legal documents often require extra room for extensive contracts, detailed agreements, or complex legal arguments. The extra length of the legal paper allows for uninterrupted writing, reducing the need for multiple pages and enhancing the overall readability of the document.

Furthermore, the legal paper size is commonly used for drafting and printing legal documents, such as wills, trust deeds, and court pleadings. These documents often require specific formatting, including margins and line spacing, which can be more conveniently accommodated on the longer legal paper. The extra length ensures that the document maintains its original format when printed or copied, avoiding any content truncation or distortion.

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Common Misconceptions:

Despite its name, the legal paper size is not exclusively used for legal purposes. Many people assume that this paper size is limited to the legal field, leading to misconceptions regarding its usability. However, legal-sized paper can be employed in a variety of professional settings, such as drafting architectural plans, engineering diagrams, or any other document that requires a larger canvas for detailed drawings or technical specifications.

Additionally, legal-sized paper is often utilized for educational purposes. Teachers may prefer this paper size for creating visual aids, charts, or graphs that require extra space. It also facilitates the presentation of larger, more elaborate illustrations, providing a clear and concise representation of information.


Q: Can I use legal paper for regular printing purposes, such as letters or personal documents?
A: While legal paper can be used for regular printing, it may not fit standard letter-sized envelopes. Consider using legal paper for internal documents or when additional writing space is required.

Q: Are legal-sized documents accepted in all countries?
A: No, the legal paper size is mainly used in countries that follow common law systems, such as the United States and Canada. In countries with civil law systems, the standard A4 paper size (210 mm by 297 mm) is commonly used for legal documents.

Q: Can I convert legal-sized documents into letter size without losing content?
A: It is possible to reduce the size of legal documents to letter size, but keep in mind that the content may become smaller and less readable. Consider adjusting the margins and formatting to ensure the content fits appropriately.

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Q: Is legal paper more expensive than letter-sized paper?
A: Legal paper is typically priced similarly to letter-sized paper. However, availability may vary depending on the region. Check with local stationery suppliers or online retailers for pricing and availability.

In conclusion, the legal paper size is longer to accommodate the specific needs of legal professionals, providing ample space for extensive written content and facilitating the formatting of legal documents. Its practical applications extend beyond the legal field, making it a versatile option for various professional and educational purposes. By understanding the historical background, practical applications, and dispelling common misconceptions, we can appreciate the significance and usefulness of the legal paper size in today’s world.