A tip for lawyers and law students. As professionals you have to deal with your clients. Mind you that, in the future, when we pay you your retainers and per-hour/per-case rates, we’re paying you to translate law to a language we can understand (and guide us in making informed decisions) and not just quote from law books. We’re paying people, not parrots.

Perhaps talking in legalese is necessary when talking to fellow law rats. I think I can still forgive your law school talk blabber in coffee shops amidst sips of coffee and streaking law books with fancifully colored highlighters. But when talking to normal people and then you pepper your language with so much legalese, it’s either you don’t know what you’re talking about or you’re just trying to make yourself sound smart. Either way, you sound like an ass. In my book, simplifying complex ideas in one-liner statements is a sign of genius.

Take this case for example. I had to clarify some legal stuff (just curious about real estate) so I consulted with two friends who are both senior law students. I didn’t want to bother a lawyer for such a petty inquiry so I decided to check with them. Being senior law students they should at least know what to answer, right? I won’t be naming the schools but they attend two of the top law schools in the country.

Amazingly, I received pretty much the same textbook reply but in different language registers. Whether they’re answers are accurate but I was more curious with how they’d be answering. Both are summarized from a string of text messages but I tried to preserve as much of the content as possible.

Exhibit A

The land as evidenced and described in the title, you mean? Check the title if there are any encumbrances and annotation. It should be clean. Then get the title, execute a mortgage contract, have the contract notarized. Then have it annotated in the registry of deeds.

Exhibit B

Check mo yung provisions dun sa contract ng developer tsaka dun sa kausap mo. Dapat bayad na lahat para kapag hinawakan mo yung title, walang sabit. Baka kasi may utang pa, ma-transfer sa iyo yung responsibility. Kung sure ka na na malinis, tsaka na kayo gumawa ng contract na pipirmahan niyong dalawa sa notaryo. May lalakarin ka pa sa registry of deeds after. Medyo complicated yung process pero kung gusto mo explanation step-by-step, usap pa tayo.

I can find my way through some basic legalese, having to teach technical writing. However, comparing the two replies, both carry the same content but I think I know which reply most common people will appreciate more.

The first was, sure, straight to the point but with the rate of two legal jargon a sentence, you can get immediately get lost midway in the first sentence.

The second one took efforts to translate most of the thoughts to Tagalog. I do understand “encumbrance, liens, and mortgage” since I’ve had my share of signing deeds but using “sabit” hits home. Oh and take note of the willingness to go the extra mile with the offer of more explanation. That, my friends is service. It opens up the lines of future communication.

I guess I know who I’ll be hiring as my lawyer in the future (not that I plan to get into trouble). Well, that’s after I factor in their bar exam grades, of course.

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