Try Not Talking Like a Lawyer

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Personal Productivity for Lawyers

This quick-start guide to Getting Things Done and Inbox Zero also includes two shortcuts for those who want the benefits of GTD without having to learn the system.

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Last month I wrote a post on legal writing—emphasizing “get to the point.” You can also improve your legal writing by eliminating legal talk (to the extent possible), which makes your writing easier to comprehend. When you are talking with clients, remember your audience. Clients are not lawyers, so do not talk to them like they are.

You can still be a lawyer without talking like one

There will always be some clients who want to talk about case law, or a new statute, or why something is unconstitutional. Most clients, however, just want to know what they should do, what is the best course of action? You can provide that answer without a ten minute history of the law; just talk like a normal person.

Clients want your advice, not your resume

There is nothing wrong with (briefly) talking about qualifying your opinion. But it is not an open invitation for you to pad your ego by recounting your resume for twenty minutes. If they are in your office, they probably already think you are the right person. If they ask about your qualification, go ahead and tell them. For most clients, however, they want to talk to someone they can relate with.

Try it for a week and see what happens

As Dan Pink calls it “can you speak human?” For at least a week, change your approach to client meetings. Talk like a normal person, not like a lawyer. Sure, it can be uncomfortable at first. Once you get the hang of it, however, I guarantee you will see positive results and generate stronger relationships with clients.

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  • I love this post. I find that it is harder to not speak like a lawyer, but that this is a big part of communication with clients. Clients don’t speak “lawyer” courts do. Save the legalese for the Courts.