Overcoming the ‘Legalese’ Language Barrier


According to the Cambridge dictionary, legalese is a language used by lawyers and legal documents that is difficult for ordinary people to understand. 'Legalese' is filled with legal terminology and academic words, phrasing and terms best for completing court documentation or filing official legal letters primarily read by other legal professionals.  

The use of specific legal phrases assists a lawyer in preparing legal documents for their clients. The interpretation of a particular word or phrase can make all the difference in a case as certain words and phrases have a precise meaning in a legal context. A lawyer aims to protect their client and guard against any misinterpretations of a legal document. Legalese is more often than not a succinct way to convey a meaning.

However, when speaking to a client, some lawyers forget to turn off 'legalese' and talk to clients about their estate planning or legal debt recovery in everyday English. The result is a preconception in the broader public that lawyers speak to their clients in legalese as a way to confuse, confound or perhaps pull the wool over your eyes.  


Overcoming Language Barriers

If your lawyer cannot communicate to you in a way you can understand with a legal matter such as litigation, then do not hesitate to ask them to explain your legal standing in another way. You can even politely ask your litigation lawyer to stop speaking to you in legalese. No matter how good your lawyer may be, the information they present holds little to no value if you cannot understand the concepts presented.

If English is your second language, it may be wise to find a lawyer who can also speak your first language or at least understand it. At TY Lawyers Chatswood, we take pride in having bilingual staff. From our administrative assistant to our director, we are fluent in English, Chinese Mandarin, and Chinese Cantonese. We adjust our communication style to ensure that we can overcome any language barrier - legalese or otherwise so that you are armed and informed.

We are committed to serving our community. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, from the 2016 census, Chatswood is one of the top six suburbs in Australia where people born in China resides. This statistic does not take into account Chinese from Hong Kong, Singapore, or Malaysia who also reside in Sydney's lower North Shore. That is why it is important that our legal team are fluent in Chinese Mandarin and Chinese Cantonese.


Making Complex Legal Matters Accessible

Legal matters are often complicated and highly personal, so you need to be confident in a lawyer's ability to represent you. It all starts with communication. 

Receiving honest legal advice you can trust and understand is essential to making well-informed decisions. This is made simpler if your lawyer can take you through the legal process clearly and systematically and avoid legalese to explain your situation. Litigation may be unavoidable, but a lawyer who bamboozles you with legalese can be avoided.  

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