Talking Legaltech: Can We Please Use Layman’s Terms

Talking Legaltech: Can We Please Use Layman’s Terms

Perusing legaltech articles on the web reveals that IT experts in the legal industry have something in common with the attorneys they design products for: both tend to speak using industry language that those outside their respective disciplines do not understand. Reading some of those articles can be simultaneously entertaining and maddening. Can we please start using layman’s terms?

We all get the fact that certain industries have their own unique languages. There is nothing wrong with that. But when any given industry is attempting to reach out to customers, it’s a wise idea to speak to those customers in layman’s terms. Expecting them to understand industry speak is like expecting immigrants to a new country to understand a language they have never been exposed to.

Just Tell Us What It Does

One example of confusing legaltech terms is the word ‘ecosystem’. The term is actually used pretty widely throughout the IT sector to describe the environment under which new software is either developed or deployed. Developers and IT experts can freely speak of ecosystems without worrying that anyone in the room is lost. They all understand it.

Some of those same IT professionals trying to sell a law firm on case management software might also speak of ecosystems. Yet as the words are coming out of their mouths, those attorneys sitting patiently through the presentation start showing the signs of ignorance. Their eyes glaze over, their faces lose all expression, and their thoughts begin wandering to those court appearances they wish they were preparing for.

Imagine you are an attorney sitting through a presentation explaining the benefits of the NuLaw case management app. Time is money, and you are spending time you would rather be devoting to clients listening to this presentation. Wouldn’t you want the presenter to just tell you what the software does, as clearly and plainly as possible? Of course you would. You don’t have time to listen to long-winded speeches filled with vocabulary that means nothing to you.

Speak to Me, Not at Me

We have somehow gotten to a place where terms like ‘ecosystem’ and ‘thought leader’ are bandied about with careless nonchalance. Far too many people try to impress with their words instead of their actions. As a result, we have a real communication breakdown that goes unrecognized because so many people are enamored by big words.

If you want to sell me on a new piece of legal software, don’t speak at me. Speak to me. Do not try to impress me with industry jargon designed to make you look professional and intelligent. Speak to me and my need for the software you’re selling. Tell me what it does. Convince me that it’s better than what I currently do. That’s what I need to know.

I get the fact that you love the term ‘ecosystem’. It means nothing to me. I’m also not all that interested in what the thought leaders in your industry think about legaltech. At the end of the day, I am trying to run a law firm that produces results. If your software cannot make me a better attorney, I’ll stick with what I have until something useful comes along.

There is no doubt that technology has a place in the legal industry. In fact, technology will drive the industry of the future. But to get there, those who produce the technology have to be able to relate to those who will use it. So for the sake of everyone’s sanity, can we please get rid of the jargon and get back to speaking in layman’s terms?