I know you heard what I said but do you know what I meant?
Many professions have their own code. If an estate agent refers to a property as "compact", it means the size of a shoebox. Or if it's being sold by a motivated seller, that means desperate. If a teacher describes your child as quiet, that probably means "falls asleep at the back of the class" or "can't get a word in over the noise all the others are making".
Solicitors, like most professionals, have a code, both internal and external. Clients sometimes like to draft letters or witness statements for us, both in the hope that it will save them money (it rarely does) and to ensure that we get all the facts down (good facts are essential, but drafts from the client often include a great deal of emotion and irrelevant points that we have to take out). We then have to find tactful ways of changing it, such as saying we've kept the essence, but turned it in to something more legal, or that we've shortened it, because that's what the court would expect us to do. We also have certain things we say to the other side, such as "I'll take my client's instructions" which usually means "we're going to have a good laugh about this at your client's expense". Another one is "whilst our client fully understands your clients position" which means "no we don't, but I don't want to tell you we think your client's mad". I very much doubt that expressions like this are used only by the legal profession in this way!
Despite the need to sometimes be tactful, and say the right thing whilst still doing something completely different, it is also important to speak plainly and to make sure that everyone understand what you are saying and what you are trying to achieve. For this reason, I'm a big fan of steps like picking up the phone to the other side to short circuit things, or meeting up at the earliest opportunity for a round table meeting. Much can be achieved in verbal communication that can be lost in even the clearest of letters. I also like to meet my clients in person where possible, so that I have a clear understanding of what they are looking to achieve. This is why I almost always do an initial meeting for free, as it can be extremely valuable to me in the long run.
If you're going through a dispute, or making changes in your life, such as moving house or selling your business, and you need some straight forward legal advice, without the jargon and codes, drop me a line at email@example.com for some straight forward tea and good conversation.
Kleyman & Co Solicitors. The full service law firm. We speak English.