“Scientists Are Lousy Communicators…” and Lawyers?

May 19, 2010 | By

“Scientists are lousy communicators. They appeal to people’s heads, not their hearts or guts,” according to a recent Newsweek  article.  And quoting Randy Olson: “Scientists think of themselves as guardians of truth…once they have spewed it out, they feel the burden is on the audience to understand it.”  Olson, who left a professorship in marine biology to make films about science, has authored the book Don’t Be Such a Scientist: Talking Substance in an Age of Style (2009).

Like scientists, lawyers often leave it up to their audiences to figure out what they meant.  A lawyer’s failure to communicate is especially dangerous when talking to prospective clients – whether through the media or in person during meetings or pitches for new business.  Most prospective clients — especially these days — will walk away rather than do the work of figuring out what the lawyer meant!

The key for lawyers who want to communicate better with clients and prospective clients is to analyze their audience before speaking.  A lawyer who communicates well answers three questions before speaking:

  1. What single thing will grab the attention of this audience?
  2. What words communicate best with this audience?
  3. What story or example can I use that this audience will identify with and immediately understand?

In this economy, lawyers cannot afford to speak from a self-centered perspective:  What client wants to hire a lawyer who doesn’t bother to talk to them from a business perspective? Who would want a lawyer who talks about a new law or new regulation —  but does not make clear IMMEDIATELY what the impact will likely be for the client’s business?

In the past, when law firms had a lot of power, lawyers sometimes got away with not communicating clearly.  I think we can all agree — those days are over.

Marsha Redmon, mredmon [at] marsha [dot] com

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About the Author (Author Profile)

Marsha Redmon is a former practicing lawyer and television journalist who has been teaching lawyers to get the business and recognition they want through business development, communications, video and media interview workshops and coaching for the last 16 years. Contact her at: info [at] marsha [dot] com or 202.251.3390

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