Our Clients, most of them who are not lawyers already have a perception that lawyers use ‘big words’. I guess that is why law schools are insisting on the use of plain English, an area many lawyers are struggling with.
Having worked both in a law firm and as in house counsel, I have had the privilege of interacting with the individuals who issue lawyers with instructions. These are the CEOs, CFOs, government, individuals and other managers in different lines of duty. One common strand prevails in all. They simply DO NOT HAVE TIME or the ENERGY to read over 5-20 pages of dense legalese or purported simplified analysis of the law etc. Believe it or not! They are more concerned with the SOLUTIONS and RECOMMENDATIONS that you have to give.
Think about it. How many times has a client called on you to explain or give them a summary of the advice in your legal opinion? In fact, a wise lawyer will summarize the opinion in an email or patch it on the first page of the document. On the other hand, in house counsel are usually overwhelmed and will not have time to read the whole document. They will rely on the summary you give over the phone or the email.
Law school teaches us that for every legal opinion, we must have a chronological order of facts, issues, rules, application of the law/analysis and conclusion (FIRAC). Nothing has changed from the 1600s. Weird! Some innovative lawyers have tweaked their legal opinions to incorporate issues such as a summary of the law etc. but the general taste remains the same.
Times have changed and so are the various forms in which we consume information. There is a feeling out here that lawyers are simply stuck in the middle ages ‘therein, wherein” and other obsolete terms. Perhaps with an aim to preserve the mystery of the law. I strongly believe that there should be a radical reform of the legal opinion to simplify if for the benefit of the Client. Make the information more appealing. The overall result would lead to less wastage of time and resources on both sides.
For starters, we would do away with prose and resort to use of tables/matrices to explain the information. Further, I would suggest that we also have a word reader to package the legal opinion in a manner that the Clients would instead listen to it. Podcasts or videos/power point slides would enhance consumption of this information. I propose a comprehensive review of the uninteresting manner in which lawyers present their information to Clients. For instance, I have NOT SEEN the use of EMOJIS on our legal documents, yet you have probably sent an emoji on your phone right now. The law does not exist in a vacuum but should be a reflection of the changing societal needs.
The current legal opinions are in the dark ages of the nokia era, while the world is now at the ios/android period. Let us accept change and develop more interesting ways of packaging our bread and butter.
PROW endeavors to communicate to its Client’s by issuing brief and succinct legal opinions and not merely regurgitate the law.
Should you need any assistance in relation to any legal issues or general advice, kindly contact as at email@example.com