How legal copywriting can remove emotion without reducing impact

by Anna Fozzard

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TV crime dramas have painted a sombre image of the life and work of a lawyer. They come across as sassy, frank and cold. But from our experience of copywriting for legal companies, the reality of a lawyer’s role couldn’t be more different.

Our clients help people through some of the most difficult and emotionally charged situations. Some people seek the help of lawyers to make arrangements for their children after separation. Others need to carry out the wishes of a loved one’s will. The stress of buying or selling property is something you work with your solicitor to solve. And family businesses need to address succession planning. We turn to lawyers when relationships are breaking down and when we need to think sensibly about the future. Despite the support lawyers offer, legal copywriting can sometimes come across as formal and solemn. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

The compassionate side of law

The words we use have the power to inflame emotions. There are lots of examples through history of speeches and lines that have inspired camaraderie or induced anger. Churchill’s ‘we will fight them on the beaches’ address is a case in point.

Though for many of our legal clients, words are used to diffuse situations and help people think pragmatically when their resilience and patience are being tested.

A legal professional’s broad awareness of a situation enables them to steer people through difficult decisions with logic. Many believe a lawyer’s role is to remove emotion and help people think rationally, but that seems too simplistic compared to our experience working with legal firms.

Although lawyers do bring transparency and reason to complex decisions, in many cases they will encourage their client to think about the emotional implications of decisions. For example, they may discuss possible options for child arrangements and explain the realities of each circumstance. They might also encourage family members who disagree over a will to work together to find a sensible outcome, helping to keep relationships intact.

The legal firms we write for also talk about reassuring their clients. They provide clarity and understanding, so their clients can make the right decisions for their personal circumstances.

So why, in that case, do law firms ask for our legal copywriting advice to come across as more human in their communications?

Demonstrating empathy, not emotion

We’ve found that many legal firms revert to a standard way of communicating because the need to remain factual overrides the benefit of writing for impact.

However, there can be a balance. The right words can bring empathy, compassion and reassurance to legal copywriting without overstepping the line into emotional or dramatic.

The Law Society has a great example. On its page about divorce, it explains, “A family law solicitor will support you through the divorce process – and will give you advice that you can trust about the things that matter most – your children, your home and your financial security”. Using words like ‘trust’ and calling out people’s common concerns illustrate an emotional understanding of the situation.

Although Age UK isn’t a legal firm, we do like its page about writing a will. It says, “A will is the only way to make sure your money, property, possessions and investments (known as your estate) go to the people and causes you care about”. It’s to the point while showing compassion for someone’s needs and considerations.

Legal writing tips

Here are a few tips we offer our legal clients to help them weave compassion into their communications:

Use everyday language – when you’re trying to build connections with people, it can help to mirror the words they use. Reducing the formality and jargon can be as simple as swapping ‘resolve’ for ‘decide’ or ‘agree’.

Avoiding stating the emotions – the person reading your communications will probably know that their situation is upsetting, sad or distressing, so try to avoid describing the emotions and instead focus on a person’s likely concerns.

Offer reassurance – by explaining how you can help, you will bring a positive takeaway and tell the potential client something they might not already know.

Use examples – it helps to show your understanding of someone’s worries while avoiding overly expressive language.

Legal copywriting is your chance to show the brilliant work you do helping people when they need guidance through difficult circumstances. It’s something our legal copywriters and strategists have lots of experience in. Take a look at how we’ve helped many law firms stand out from their competitors.

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