Legalese. Sounds like a bad disease, doesn’t it? In a way, it is. It is a disease, to paraphrase the warden in Cool Hand Luke, that all too often results in a “failure to communicate,” the ultimate disease that can doom an attorney-client relationship. A lawyer’s ability to communicate clearly and concisely is the linchpin to a successful attorney-client relationship, success in the courtroom, and success with opposing counsel. A “failure to communicate” is the death knell to success. In order to best represent you, your lawyer has to be able to communicate.
Too often lawyers will speak “legalese” without thinking twice. There are many reasons why a lawyer may talk like a lawyer instead of like a real person, none of which are particularly good. Let’s look at some of them.
Attorneys will sometimes use it as a shortcut to express a more complex legal concept. While that may be fine when your lawyer talks that way to opposing counsel, the opposing insurance claims adjuster, or the Court, it is not acceptable for him to speak that way to you, the client. Most people without legal training will not understand the “legalese.” I know how frustrated I get when my doctor speaks “medicalese” to me. What is wrong with me? What is he telling me? Am I dying? Just what the heck is going on? I want to know what my medical condition is, not the label for it. You, as a client, have a right to understand what is going on with your legal case, not just the label.