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04 Sep 2015

‘E’ for empathy and ‘S’ for simplicity

In more than 25 years of professional practice as a lawyer, I have advised a number of clients. While most of my clients have been companies, I have also assisted individuals and families. Probably the most important thing that I have learnt over all these years is that as lawyers, we must not get caught up in a swirl of jargon or attempt to show off by spouting Sections from this Act or another Act.

Doing so may impress a handful of clients- but they’re usually the ones who are themselves quite well-versed with the law either by training or experience. On average, most clients come to lawyers because they do not adequately know the law or how to address the problem at hand. For such clients, what is of value is for you as a lawyer to put yourself in his/her shoes and identify the main concerns.

Having done so, the next task is to try and explain in simple terms the core issues and your proposed solution approach. Do spend time on highlighting the pros and cons of different options and explain your rationale for choosing the path you are recommending. Do not shy away from highlighting the risks- including the response or counter measures you expect the other side to take. Not only will this help your client clearly understand why you are proposing what you are, but it will also give you and your team the opportunity to think about what the other side might do and how you can be better prepared for them.

The above process also gives you the opportunity to showcase your expertise. I believe that if only if you are truly a master of your space (whether it is real estate, litigation, M&A, IPR or whatever else), can you articulate the issues and solutions in simple terms that even non-lawyer clients can comprehend. Jargon only serves to obfuscate- and that is often the façade adopted by lawyers who do not know their stuff. And guess what? Once you have demonstrated your expertise to your client, the perception stays with the client- and the client stays with you!

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