How does your law firm appeal to the Common Man? How do you know that you are hitting the mark, staying relevant, and speaking their language? Chances are that you do it very well in person, and that you’re rubbish at it in writing.
Law firms must simplify to survive
The terms “law” and “simplicity” are not often put in the same sentence. Quite likely, you read it, snorted in agreement, and smiled. It’s not funny; it is a significant problem. It’s a problem in the content itself, and it’s a problem in the process and control behind it.
One of the reasons is that legal work is steeped in definitions. Meanings of words is incredibly important. So is completeness and accuracy. Getting a lawyer to write one example of something is a challenge. Getting a lawyer to let go of governance, by developing tools, is also a challenge.
So, too, lawyers struggle with thinking outside the square. Getting to the edges of the square is difficult in itself. That, too, is a process documentation issue. You can’t document a process if you don’t want to let go of your control of that process. Power is an intoxicating thing — and also topic that is taboo.
Some reasons why law firms resist simplicity
There are a range of reasons why law firms resist simplification. Some of these are that by simplifying you feel
- that you are telling people ‘too much’
- that it doesn’t support your expertise
- frightened to empower other people in case you will lose business
- exposed by the lack of business systematisation.
They’re all legitimate concerns. But just because they’re legitimate doesn’t mean that they’re right.
There’s no such thing as ‘too much’: Simplifying allows people to understand
When you think about “too much information”, how much is too much? More to the point, when you are looking for a service, how much information is enough for you?
Further, are you giving information, or are you educating your clients? If you have a goal to educate your clients, then being afraid of giving away information is counter‐intuitive.
Simplifying content allows people to understand what you do. That understanding leads them to an understanding of how you can help them. It helps people to put themselves into your picture.
You can write about how you speak simply, and why people think you’re amazing. But if you aren’t walking the talk, it has no authenticity and no substance.
Accessibility is not just cost. It is also simplicity, understanding, location, device, and also the ability to see. There’s a reason why you need to make sure low‐vision people can see your content and understand it.
Stop trying to look like an expert: Simplifying demonstrates expertise
If you’ve ever been involved in the arts — have played music, painted, or danced — you will know how hard it is to make something look easy. If anything, being able to publish simple content about complex information shows your mastery. If you can’t explain what you do to a twelve year old child, then perhaps you aren’t a master.
It’s a confronting statement, isn’t it? In the same way, if your internal business is complex, you aren’t a master there either.
It is an interesting balance, simplicity versus complexity. Your readers, website users, and staff, need to be able to do things in the simplest possible way. There needs to be as little friction as possible. If you can create the illusion of ease in an area like law, then you are doing something right.
Empowerment doesn’t lose business: Empowerment creates engagement
The peculiarities of law tell us that you aren’t just competing with everyone else in the market, but in some cases also with people in your firm. This is where this fear of loss of business comes from. If you empower other people, they will either (a) go somewhere else, or (b) take your clientele.
It’s not true. In fact, when you empower people you create greater levels of engagement. Empowerment and collaboration are very powerful things.
Empowering people happens in many ways. It happens by involving them in process creation and process improvement. It happens by creating simple content and frameworks. It happens by driving and encouraging inclusion and input. It happens with collaboration.
In the 21st Century, barriers to understanding, and barriers to empowerment, are barriers to getting work. If your clients can’t understand how you help them, and see themselves in your picture, they will go elsewhere. And if your team members don’t feel like they are empowered by your business, they won’t hang around.
How can I simplify my firm?
Simplification starts with visibility. If you don’t know what is complicated, you don’t have any idea where to start.
In terms of your content strategy, a great way to start is to go to The Readability Test Tool and check the reading level of any content.. This post, for example, is very high, at 15‐year‐old level. If you are appealing to the average Joe aim for 10 – 12 years old.
In terms of your processes or workflow, a good place to start is to find out how many you have. Then ask, ‘when is the last time this was audited?’ If the answer is ‘we don’t have any’, or ‘never’, there is no time like the present to begin.
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