Obscure Latin words, marble laden courtrooms, and seemingly elitist attorneys are the reason regular people who must rely on the legal system often feel overwhelmed and intimated. Legal documents can seem as foreign and perplexing as IKEA furniture directions. It is no wonder why the general public has such a jaded perspective about the legal system.
It is important to remember that the American system of legal jurisprudence was actually designed to make people feel more empowered, not less. Unfortunately, too many people who find themselves in a legal conflict end up feeling vulnerable because they have been deprived of their personal power over a situation. This is absolutely contrary to the intent behind our legal system.
So what can be done?
How can we make the legal system less elitist and more egalitarian?
The answer; KEEP IT SIMPLE!
The public must demand legal professionals to be more plain and straightforward with their communication. It is imperative that people understand the legal environment around them. It becomes a near impossibility for non-lawyers to understand their legal environment when everything they hear and see is saturated with legal jargon. Other than a swollen sense of superiority, there is nothing stopping lawyers from speaking and writing more plainly. Christopher Trudeau, a professor at Thomas M. Cooley Law School, conducted a study on legal communication and the results confirm that the legal profession would be more effective and efficient if attorneys used plain language. Trudeau, Christopher R., The Public Speaks: An Empirical Study of Legal Communication (May 20, 2012). 14 Scribes J. Leg. Writing 121 (2011-2012).
In Professor Trudeau’s study, 71% who were surveyed indicated that they had received a legal document that was difficult to read. Yikes, that is a significant majority and shows that attorneys are failing to effectively communicate with their clients. One of the participants in the study wrote that, “It was all in the English language, yet I could not understand the mumbo-jumbo!! This for me feels condescending and corrupt.” I am sure non-lawyers reading this can relate to that. The study also found that 40% of clients stopped reading legal documents if they felt the language was too legalistic. This is troubling because these are documents that have information within them that can have a drastic impact on their life.
What is probably more noteworthy is that Trudeau’s study found that 88% of the participants preferred and understood documents that incorporated plain language methods. This means that clients are not impressed with legalistic communication, what they are impressed with is an attorney who can communicate with them in way that they can understand.
Knowing this, at Adolph Legal, it is our primary goal that we communicate to you in a way that you can understand so that you feel knowledgeable about your case, and as the old adage goes, “knowledge is power.” And every person has a right to feel empowered by the law.