What is “Legalese” and Why is it Bad?

What is 'Legalese' and why is it bad?

If you’re a lawyer, you may already be familiar with the term “legalese”. For those who may be unaware, it refers to “legal speak” or language that is filled with a whole lot of legal terminology and scholarly/academic words, phrasing, and terms. Legalese is using terms like “stipulation” and “statute” without explaining their definitions. It’s using odd words like “herewith” and “henceforth”. When using legalese, you’ll generally avoid using contractions and common lingo for the most part.

There’s a time and place for legalese. When completing court documentation and filing official legal letters, you may definitely see the need to include a bit of it. These are the documents that will primarily get read by other legal professionals, after all, so writing within the legal realm makes sense. But what about for your law firm’s website? What about for your blog, or over social media?

These are the places in which legalese tends to do more harm than good. The key is to always remember your audience when approaching legal writing of any kind—whether it be for a client, the court, a proceeding judge, or your potential client base. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who am I writing for?
  • What is my goal?
  • Will my intended audience understand and appreciate my word choice, tone, and writing style, or should I change it to better suit them?

Remember, when writing for your current or potential client base, those individuals most likely don’t understand what all the legal terms you commonly use mean. They may struggle with digesting long sentences using academic speak. Don’t be afraid to use language and grammar that’s shorter, more succinct, and more approachable when writing for your law firm website—whether that content is featured as site content or blog posts. Here’s a good example of a blog post that’s nicely approachable.

When posting over social media platforms, you especially want to keep your content approachable. Shorter sentences and phrases help your audience pay attention to what you have to say instead of simply skimming past your post. When it comes to social media, brevity definitely matters. Including pictures can help increase social media visibility as well.

Memorable Content is Key in Law Firm Marketing

When content is easily digestible, it not only is easy to read, but becomes memorable. When a potential legal client skims half a dozen personal injury sites, what will they likely remember about each? Firstly, they’re likely to remember critical site design factors and features like load speed, ease of access, mobile-friendliness, and the site’s overall navigational functionality. Besides that, if they took the time to check out your site content and/or blog, they’ll remember the first few articles they skim over.

Were those articles interesting? Did they teach them something new about the world of personal injury and the potential case they may have? If so, that content is most likely to be remembered in a positive way. If, on the flip side, that content was barebones, lacking updates, lacking useful descriptions, or was a giant wall of text waiting to be hauled off a cliff, there’s a good chance that content was ignored completely. To put it simply, when content is good, it’s remembered. When it’s bad, it’s not. If someone can’t understand what they’re reading, it becomes inherently bad.

Another thing to avoid is using content writing that’s too similar to content seen on other legal/lawyer websites. Plagiarism is something that needs to absolutely be avoided, of course, but besides that, many legal sites use a great deal of legalese—more than is needed in most cases. People appreciate sites that stand out and dare to be different. When you publish content that stands out from your competitors’ sites, clients will notice. Just stay within the realm of professionalism and you’re good to go.

For more great, in-depth tips on how to find the perfect writing style for tackling legal content writing for law firms, check out our massive guide. For even more help, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. We’ll help you come up with great content that Google loves as well as help you optimize your day-to-day SEO tasks, social media tasks, and ensure your website design is as great as it should be.