Woman pointing to chalkboard to symbolize jargon

Actually, lawyers should use jargon in their thought-leadership content

When using the right kind of jargon, lawyers can build bonds with their current and prospective clients through thought-leadership content.


If you are like most lawyers, you’ve probably been told to avoid using legalese whenever you write marketing and business development content.

But really, that advice is “avoid using legal jargon.” That’s because legalese is just legal jargon. Jargon is defined by Merriam-Webster as “the technical terminology or characteristic idiom of a special activity or group,” or “obscure and often pretentious language marked by circumlocutions and long words.”

I agree with that general advice and urge lawyers not to use legal jargon when writing thought-leadership marketing and business development content targeting former, current, and prospective clients like blog posts, client alerts, bylined articles, and the like.

Not all jargon is bad

BUT.

When writing that kind of content, you should very much consider using a different kind of jargon: your clients’ industry jargon.

You should not hesitate to use acronyms, terms of art, and other language that is specific to your clients’ industries when writing thought-leadership content about legal developments and business issues in those industries.

You should do so because it signals to the readers of your content—hopefully your former, current, or prospective clients, or referral sources—that you have an understanding of the legal issues and the business issues your clients face day-to-day in their businesses and in their industries.

Of course, when you provide written analysis of a recent court decision, a recent administrative agency action, or a proposed piece of legislation, that analysis will show your knowledge of your clients’ industries and the legal and business issues that arise in those industries.

But when you use the jargon of your clients’ industries, you create a less formal but no less important bond between you and your readers. That’s because when they’re using jargon freely and correctly, your readers (who, again, are hopefully your former, current, and prospective clients), can’t help but think to themselves, “Well, gee, if they are rattling off these terms while discussing issues I wrestle with, they obviously know their way around my industry. I should consider hiring them for the long term because they clearly have knowledge that goes beyond a one-time analysis of a court case or legislation, and could help us beyond one-off legal projects.”

Use the right jargon in your thought-leadership marketing and business development content

When you write thought-leadership marketing and business development content, avoid using legal jargon that may cause your readers’ eyes to glaze over.

But absolutely use jargon that’s specific to your clients’ industries because it helps build a bond between you and them and makes it clear to them that you are the lawyer they should hire when confronted with complex legal or business issues.

Or, to paraphrase Gordon Gecko and then twist his famous phrase for my own benefit:

Jargon is good.

Bottom line: When using the right kind of jargon, lawyers can build bonds with their current and prospective clients through thought-leadership content.

Wayne Pollock, a former Am Law 50 senior litigation associate, is the founder of Copo Strategies, a legal services and communications firm, and the Law Firm Editorial Service, a content strategy and ghostwriting service for lawyers and their law firms. The Law Firm Editorial Service sets free the knowledge and wisdom trapped inside Big Law and boutique law firm partners by collaborating with them to strategize and ethically ghostwrite book-of-business-building marketing and business development content.

Thinking about bringing on an outside writer to help your law firm strategize and create thought-leadership marketing and business development content—with or without jargon from your clients’ industries? Click here to schedule a 30-minute Content Strategy Audit to learn if collaborating with an outside writer is the right move for you and your firm.

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