Every movie about aliens is bult on a foundation of miscommunication.
Like, E.T.’s not here to hurt you! He just wants some Reese’s Pieces, and to learn how to dial a rotary phone, for God’s sake! Or, Wall-E isn’t evil, the boy just wants to pick up your trash. (Let the boy pick up your trash!) The blue people in Avatar are not dangerous, they’re just environmentalists! The aliens from ‘Alien’ weren’t bad . . . Oh, wait, they were. They were very bad. (Just ask Tom Skerritt.)
You get the drift: misunderstanding, distrust, lack of engagement . . . it all springs from an inability to communicate.
So, you should know that a lot of lawyers sound like aliens to legal consumers.
Attorneys love to speak in legalese, to throw around Latin terms, to discuss arcane points of procedure, to uncover unexpected precedent, to talk through cat filters. Consumers don’t understand any of it. They don’t deal in the same formality that attorneys often do.
And, when lawyers try to write for consumers, it often sounds stilted, disjointed and weird. It sounds just like what it is: an attorney trying not to sound like an attorney, but failing miserably at it.
But, in terms of legal services, a consumer-friendly narrative wins the day. Legal consumers are universally interested in the legal process, they want to know that help you can help them with their specific issue. They could not give a rat’s ass about the Palsgraf case, however.
So, law firms need to work harder to generate consumer-centric language, when drafting any kind of content for consumers, whether that’s a video, blog post, podcast or chatbot script. Explain what’s happening, directly and clearly. Write crisply. Point to the next step.
Think of climbing a set of stairs. Each step is brisk and short, and combine to lead to an ultimate destination. Model your legal writing for consumers after that model, and you won’t misstep.