If a client wants legal advice, what does the lawyer achieve by putting the answer at the end of a long recital of the facts and law? Will the client dutifully absorb all the details and seek to follow each step of the lawyer’s reasoning, before arriving gratefully at the fully-understood conclusion? Or will they turn straight to the bottom of the last page?
Give the answer first Knowing we can’t increase the client’s stock of time and attention, lawyers who want to achieve client satisfaction with correct advice, correctly understood, should follow a more reader-friendly approach. Put the answers up front, clearly signposted. Follow them with a section on But … and then explain Why.
Use traffic lights Some big clients already demand traffic-light risk reporting, to show at a glance the relative risks in what may be a long list of current cases.
Example One firm, at least, has combined these approaches in its template for all legal advice, using a traffic-light system to signal risk in the But … section. Simon Carter, brand expert and communicator, of One Three Four, designed it for them. He presented it to a Clarity breakfast on 6 September and wrote it up in this article, published by Practical Law, where you can view it: A tale of two summaries: better layout makes legal documents easier to read.