Legal Language Made Simple
By Alex Tanglao, Last updated: 2021-05-31 (originally published on 2017-10-25)
by Chris Sykes, Legal Tech Evangelist at Zegal
Arresto Momentum – Why is legal language so tricky?
The language of law is something that all law students learn (the flowery archaic language, the latin, the norman French), and can very useful to lawyers. For example, when I was in legal practice I did not need to explain what I meant by ‘voir dire’ or ‘mens rea’ to another lawyer. However, non-lawyers need simple but comprehensive explanations of legal concepts – so the ability to communicate has never been more important to lawyers in any field.
[By the way – Arresto Momentum is from Harry Potter]
Communicate, communicate, communicate
I’m a legal technologist and I’m excited by the many ways in which technology is changing the legal industry. However, communication is still a vital tool in any lawyer’s skillset and, in my view, is now more important than ever. Communicating clearly is especially important when dealing with the new generation of startup founders who want to understand how business law applies to them.
Much of my focus at Zegal is about making law easier to understand for founders at the early stages of their journey. Often the number one requirement from a startup founder is the ability of a lawyer to communicate clearly and one who goes the extra mile to explain the law.
New breed of founders – new breed of lawyers
Something I’ve seen during my time in Hong Kong, Singapore and now in England is the new approach taken by lawyers who want to build a long term relationship with startups. This new approach is typified by new and interesting ways of serving clients (through technology for example), new ways of billing (such as fixed fees), and an understanding that the relationship is long-term.
The world over, clients are more demanding and more discerning when it comes to choosing their lawyer. Skill and reputation are vital, but the ability to communicate is a basic expectation that clients rightly have of their lawyers.
Demanding more modes of communication
Apart from the aspects of communication that demands clarity of language, clients are also increasingly demanding increased speed and ability to communicate. According to a study on The Future of Legal Services by the Law Society of England and Wales, the ability to transact online brought on by technological developments has influenced consumer behaviours. Clients’ expectations of how they communicate and transact with legal service providers will drive service design and delivery. Consumers are accustomed to communicating and transacting with sellers via screen technologies. This extends to clients’ expectations of how they should be able to access and purchase legal services.
At the same time, the study found that many clients still rely on major law firms for their complex and specialised legal issues and are willing to pay a higher premium for these, despite the fact that technological solutions are available to address some of these complex legal issues at a much lower cost and with greater accuracy.
For a business owner or startup founder, however, it makes much more sense to leverage these legal technology solutions that help you meet your legal needs much more affordably. And in the event that you seek out traditional legal practitioners, it is well within your right to demand that your lawyers communicate in an accessible, understandable manner.