Has Legal ‘Ease’ Had Its Day?

April 25, 2024

In every corporate setting, in-house lawyers play a crucial role in navigating legal complexities, protecting the company's interests, and ensuring compliance with regulations. However, a perennial challenge faced by in-house legal teams is effectively communicating legal concepts and advice to non-legal colleagues. This challenge often arises from the use of legal jargon or "legaleses" that can seem like a foreign language to those outside the legal profession.

In recent years, there has been a growing recognition of the need to bridge this gap between legal language and plain English within corporate environments. The phenomenon of "legalsplaining" – a term coined to describe the condescending or overly complex explanations of legal concepts to non-lawyers – has sparked discussions on how to improve communication between legal and non-legal stakeholders.

Understanding Legalese: Why Does It Matter?

Legal language, with its intricate syntax and specialised terminology, serves a specific purpose within the legal profession. It is precise, technical, and often necessary for drafting contracts, interpreting statutes, and providing legal analysis. However, when this language seeps into everyday communications with non-lawyers, it can lead to confusion, misunderstandings, and frustration.

In-house lawyers must recognise that their audience may not have the same level of legal expertise or vocabulary. Failing to communicate effectively can hinder collaboration, slow down decision-making processes, and ultimately undermine the effectiveness of legal advice.

The Pitfalls of Legalsplaining

Legalsplaining occurs when lawyers use complex legal language unnecessarily or patronisingly when communicating with non-legal colleagues. This can take various forms, such as lengthy legal memos filled with dense legalese, overly technical explanations that lack context, or dismissive attitudes towards questions or concerns raised by non-lawyers. Not only does legalsplaining create barriers to understanding, but it can also erode trust and breed resentment among colleagues. Non-legal stakeholders may feel marginalised or excluded from important discussions, leading to a breakdown in communication and collaboration.

Embracing Plain English - some top tips!
Example - a basic indemnity provision

In-house lawyers play a vital role in guiding their organisations through a complex legal landscape. However, effective legal advice requires more than just technical expertise – it also requires clear and accessible communication. By embracing plain English and avoiding the pitfalls of legaleses, in-house lawyers can bridge the gap between legal and non-legal colleagues, foster better collaboration, and ultimately drive success for their organisations. Plain English facilitates effective communication by removing barriers to understanding and ensuring that information is conveyed clearly and comprehensively. It is widely used in various contexts, including legal documents, government communications, educational materials, and business communications, to enhance readability and accessibility for all audiences.

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