But what does “Confidence through clarity” mean? It means different things to different people and we've had some fun drafting, redrafting and editing this blog because it all comes down to language. It has to be clear.
So what is language? Well, I am no scholar but the dictionary defines language as "a system for expressing thought and communicating meaning". But, as we know, in the world today and even in Europe, there are more languages than the average person can learn. Even at home, the English spoken in Edinburgh, not to mention the accent, differs from that of Glasgow. We can even distinguish between the English spoken in the north and south of those cities. It’s amazing anyone understands anything!
Now let’s throw in jargon, defined as "specialist language concerned with a particular subject, culture or profession” – how does that affect understanding? The legal profession is not alone in overusing jargon. It appears in many walks of life, from your GP to the mechanic servicing your car. Jargon, abbreviations and TLAs (Sorry – three letter acronyms) are everywhere. Often, it seems, jargon is used as a shield to hide behind, in order to avoid having to explain things fully. Sometimes it’s just laziness. Perhaps the advantage of jargon, in some areas, is that many words and expressions used in professions and businesses have clear definitions that have developed over time. They may speed up communication between colleagues, avoid confusion and actually provide clarity to those who use and understand them. In these situations, failure to use jargon, or a misuse of jargon, may actually cause confusion.
Mention a "ridge pole" to a builder and they know exactly what you mean, but the homeowner may well be in the dark. However, if we mention "the long, round bit of wood that sits at the top of the roof where the two pitches (sloping bits) meet but is under the bit of metal that runs along the roof", the homeowner may be a bit clearer. The builder, however, may not know exactly which bit of wood we are referring to. We have also used 33 words rather than 2.
Have you ever experienced difficulty in trying to do business with someone when you don’t share a language? When you find yourself with a language barrier in an unknown place and unable to communicate, fear and mistrust start to enter the equation. Sadly, it is rare that a client enters a lawyer’s office without already having experienced a degree of stress. It is also for many a strange world using acronyms and jargon, with some Latin phrases thrown in for good measure. For many clients, the lawyer might as well be speaking a foreign language.
Here we perhaps have a eureka moment. We have to make sure we translate our legalese into plain English so that we can have a meaningful dialogue with our clients. This is our responsibility, and something we take pride in. It is not that we must eliminate jargon, acronyms and TLAs altogether; however, they must be used in the right place and at the right time. Our aim, therefore, is to ensure we build trust and good relationships by communicating appropriately with our clients and providing that confidence through clarity.
You can read more about our clarity promise, here.