I was listening to the Today programme on Radio Four one morning this week; a journalist was being interviewed about taking up a role with BBC Newsround, the news programme for children, and he was asked how he could explain the war in Ukraine to children.
He explained that it was the same approach as explaining it to an adult audience in that you decided on the message you wanted to get across, relayed the message and then summarised it, but the only thing that differed was the language used.
It reminded me of my late father, an English Language and Literature teacher at a Six Form college, who always said that you could teach Shakespeare to a five year old but the language you used was different; and what is Romeo and Juliet other than a tragic fairy tale?
It got me thinking about conveyancing language; I think that one of the arts of being a good conveyancer is to be able to explain the same legal principles to clients from all backgrounds. It is just the language we use that is different. I am always shocked if I see a letter written to a client which presupposes that they know what freehold means or that they appreciate the effect of breaching a restrictive covenant. We must not assume that a client understands the intricacies of conveyancing speak, and we only have to think about how many do not understand that exchange of contracts is not when you pick up the keys.
Clients are thrown into a world of words and phrases they do not understand and have never needed to understand, and they are more likely to ask their friend if he or she knows what a rent charge is rather than call us, the stuffy solicitor, for an explanation.
I think that if we get to know our clients and understand them, we can make the process better for them and use language and explanations that they will understand and hopefully appreciate. This is not dumbing down conveyancing but engaging the client and going with them, not only on the journey (oh I hate that phrase!) of buying a house but also understanding and learning about the process.
This is written by a real high street conveyancer who wishes to remain anonymous. Read more in Today’s Conveyancer every week.