I’m in New York City this week, tending to work here on the East Coast. It’s good to be here in spite of the weather, partially because people understand me when I use the shorthand I’ve had for my entire adult life.
For example, when I go into a coffee shop I can ask that they make it light and sweet. Anyone behind the counter knows exactly how I want my coffee – regular milk, three spoonfuls of sugar. I’m in and out fast, which is how I like it.
Walk into my neighborhood coffee shop in Los Angeles, however, and it’s a different story. I need to give my order in a different way to ensure that I don’t wind up with half-and-half and four Splendas.
The shortcuts are different from place to place.
So, too, when I’m at work. I can tell a colleague I’ve got a 341 meeting coming up in the Eastern District and they know where I’m going and what it entails.
We’ve all got those verbal shortcuts, borne of experience and expediency. No matter what field you’re in, they exist.
When we talk in those shortcuts with one another, we silently acknowledge that we’re in the same club. A club of bankruptcy lawyers, or plumbers, or accountants. Whatever club you’re in, the shortcuts are like secret handshakes.
Our clients, however, don’t have those secret handshakes. They’re the uninitiated, new to the club and unaware of the terminology.
We forget that from time to time, don’t we? We assume they all know that a Chapter 7 meeting of creditors is a lawyer’s chance to catch up on email and catch up with colleagues, not some monumental occasion that calls for sweaty palms and sleepless nights.
But it isn’t so.
Next time you’re sitting with a client, remember that he or she doesn’t have the shortcuts yet. Speak clearly, plainly and without jargon. They’ll be happier, better informed, and more likely to follow your lead as you go through the lawyer-client relationship.
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