Good communication is key for successful lawyer-client relationships. But lawyers tend to think in a linear fashion and use a lot of words and complicated sentences to discuss complex legal problems. Most clients are laypeople who do not communicate in the same way lawyers typically do. That can hamper the attorney-client relationship.

Using mind maps can help lawyers take complicated concepts and processes and make them simple to improve client communication.

What is a mind map?

A mind map is a visual representation or diagram used to display connections between words, ideas or concepts, to generate ideas or visualize, structure and classify them.

According to Buzan, the human mind works with key ideas which form the basis of memory, making traditional note taking a poor way to remember information, since it relies solely on words and ideas. In addition, since traditional note taking is done only in one color, it is hard to remember, monotonous and boring. The brain makes associations, learns visually and is aided by the use of color. Hence, mind maps were born.

Mind maps use color as a differentiating factor and organize ideas and information around a central theme or idea, around which additional ideas or concepts radiate in the form of branches.  Each branch holds a key word and/or corresponding image as a visual cue, with further details radiating out from there, forming a “nodal” structure. 

Branches are reflections of the way the brain thinks, creating associations and connection to improve memory—and allowing you to see and remember more information at a glance. Using a single word per line allows the brain to create more associations and to think more creatively.

Mind Maps for Lawyers

Mind Mapping has many uses for lawyers. For example, lawyers can use mind maps to diagram arguments or entire trials, complete with the main themes of your case, with supporting witnesses, documents, exhibits and testimony radiating out from central themes. They can help law students to study and remember complicated legal concepts. Leading blogger Kevin O’Keefe often makes mind maps of webinars to help participants remember the concepts discussed during the webinar, as you can see in this mind map on a presentation about Twitter.

But since mind maps are an aid to understanding, they can also be used as a powerful client communication tool.

Using Mind Maps to communicate with clients

As I indicated in an earlier post discussing creating a new client welcome package, no matter how well you explain your services to your client during your initial intake, there is only so much your clients can absorb during that initial meeting. It is always helpful to provide clients with tools that will increase their understanding of the process, their individual matter, and how the work you do affects their case and their desired outcome.

A few ways you might use mind maps include: to clarify and simplify a complicated legal process; to show the steps through which the case must progress; or to demonstrate how a case is progressing or how the pieces, documents or arguments fit together and relate to one another.

How to create a mind map

Some of the most effective mind maps are hand-drawn, but mind mapping software is popping up all of the time, which may make it easier to create and manipulate mind maps for different purposes.  Some mind mapping programs are cloud-based and allow you to collaborate with others on creating the mind map.

A few mind mapping programs you might want to try, (some of which are free, and others are paid services) include:

For more information on how to create your own mind map, visit this site.

 (photo: http://flic.kr/p/92rvK6)