Lawyers and other professionals often take pride in sounding like they know what they are talking about. But is your language turning people away? If you write like you talk in the courtroom or especially in a legal brief, your blog could be too elite for your readers.
Your Legalese Is Betraying You
Legalese doesn’t make you seem smart, it makes your readers feel stupid. Lawyers and other professionals tend to wear their jargon as a badge of honor. They are proud of the fact that they understand terms like ipso facto. They rely on this language to demonstrate their expertise, and their elitism.
But that same professional language can backfire against you. It’s not enough to appear educated. If you want to bring in clients, you need to go beyond sounding smart. You need to demonstrate that you can help them understand the complicated legal concepts that they are facing.
Potential clients aren’t coming to you because you sound like the smartest person in the room. They are coming to get help. Some more sophisticated business clients may be able to accurately identify their issues, but few will understand the nuances of their claims. If you talk over their heads you may well embarrass them or make them feel ignorant. This creates a wall between you. When that legalese happens online it could shut down a potential relationship before it even begins.
Word Choice Is Just the Beginning
The first step to eliminating legalese is to cut the Latin and the jargon from your writing. But if you stop there, you still may be alienating potential clients. Law schools across the country teach a very complicated writing style. Long sentences, explanatory clauses, and dense paragraphs are all par for the course. But online, these stylistic choices can be a big hurdle for readers.
Most readers aren’t in deep research mode when they find your blog. Particular for consumer-facing practice areas, potential customers are more likely to be sitting with their feet up on the couch, distracted by a television show, children, or simply other apps and tabs. Even for corporate clients, multitasking is a way of life. Finding a lawyer has to fit between meetings, phone calls, and issues at the office. A traditional legal writing style demands a reader’s undivided attention. The distractions of everyday life an make your writing difficult, and frustrating to follow.
Mobile Makes Difficult Reading Even Harder
The challenges presented by a dense writing style get even worse when viewed on a cell phone or tablet. Over 70% of all American online time uses a mobile device. That means nearly 3 quarters of your potential customers are viewing your writing on a smaller screen. That makes long sentences and paragraphs even longer. It also increases the chances that your reader will be interrupted mid-thought.
It’s up to you as a writer to recognize the challenges facing your readers. It should be your goal to remove as many barriers as possible between potential customers and your door. Don’t let legalese and traditional writing styles stand between you and a case or customer. Take the time to break things down and show potential readers that not only do you know your trade, but you want to help them understand it too.
Lisa Schmidt is a writer for Legal Linguist in Ferndale, Michigan. She ghostwrites blogs and web content for lawyers and small businesses. If you need help creating clear and understandable web content, contact Legal Linguist today to schedule a meeting.