Demystifying Legal Jargon: A Plain Language Guide for Clients

by Conor Looney | CEO | Oct 27, 2023 | eDiscovery, Legal Jargon

Legal jargon resembles an enigmatic code. A complex dialect that often leaves clients feeling like they’ve entered an alien world. It’s a confusing landscape of unfamiliar terms and phrases, frequently confusing and, more critically, leading to complications in legal cases.   

Let’s unravel this perplexing world of legal terminology, shedding light on how simplifying it can be a game-changer for clients. We’ll dive into the vital role of clear communication, break down regular legal terms in everyday language, and empower you to navigate legal documents with newfound confidence. 

The Confusing World of Legal Terminology 

The legal world is notorious for its complexity. It uses a language that tends to alienate those who are not well-versed in it. Clients need to be diligent and observant, as even the slightest details can significantly affect their well-being. 

Imagine facing a contract with the term “force majeure”, an average person might not pay attention as it sounds like a mysterious, foreboding phrase, leaving them uncertain about its real significance. 

 In reality, “force majeure” refers to unexpected events or circumstances, often beyond anyone’s control, that can excuse a party from fulfilling their contractual obligations. 

 If the client doesn’t fully grasp or accidentally skips over this term, they might not realize its significance. In such cases, they may not be aware that they have a legal safety net in case of unexpected events, like a natural disaster or a pandemic, making it impossible to meet their contractual commitments.  

This lack of understanding could lead the client to be held responsible for something beyond their control, potentially resulting in financial losses and legal disputes.  

Legal Terms Made Simple 

A person going through any legal procedure might need to go through many legal documents. These legal documents may contain many terms they are hearing for the first time, which can leave them scratching their head. Here are a few legal terms that are frequently used: 


  • Plaintiff: The plaintiff is the person or group who initiates a legal action by filing a complaint. They’re essentially the one who feels wronged and is seeking a resolution from the court. 
  • Defendant: The defendant is the person or entity accused or sued in a legal case. They are required to defend themselves against the claims made by the plaintiff. 
  • Lawsuit: A lawsuit is a formal legal dispute brought before a court to resolve a conflict. It’s the process of seeking a legal remedy or judgment. 
  • Contract: A contract is a legally binding agreement between two or more parties that sets out their rights, obligations, and terms for doing business or engaging in certain activities. 
  • Liability: Liability refers to legal responsibility. It’s the obligation to make amends or compensate for harm or loss caused to another party. 
  • Damages: Damages are the monetary compensation awarded to the injured party in a lawsuit. They aim to cover losses or injuries suffered due to the actions of another party. 
  • Jurisdiction: Jurisdiction refers to the court’s authority to hear and decide a specific case. It’s generally dependent on the type of case and location. 
  • Power of Attorney: A power of attorney is a legal document that grants one person the authority to make decisions or act on behalf of another, especially in financial or healthcare matters. 
  • Injunction: An injunction is a court order that either requires someone to do something or prohibits them from doing something.  
  • Probate: Probate is the legal process through which a deceased person’s estate is administered, and assets are distributed to heirs or beneficiaries according to a will or state law. 

Navigating Legal Documents with Confidence 

To understand and navigate legal documents with confidence, here are some tips: 

  • Read Slowly and Carefully: Read the documents carefully and thoroughly to catch terms that are difficult to comprehend. 
  • Ask for Clarification: Seek clarification from an attorney on any part of the document that is unclear/confusing. 
  • Consult Legal Counsel: Legal consultation is recommended for complex documents. It’s an investment that provides peace of mind and protection in the long run. 

The Lawyer’s Role in Simplifying Legal Processes 

Attorneys are important in bridging the gap between legal language and client comprehension. Strategies that lawyers should employ include: 

  •  Active Listening: Listen attentively to your client’s concerns and questions, addressing them in easy language. 
  • Translation: Translate complex legal concepts into relatable, everyday terms for your clients to grasp quickly and effectively. 
  • Visual Aids: The use of visual aids, diagrams, or flowcharts to illustrate complex legal processes can help in a better understanding of the overall process. 

Empowering Clients Through Education 

For an attorney, it is essential that they empower clients rather than just providing them with legal representation; it means educating them about their legal rights and responsibilities. It is encouraged that clients: 

  •  Ask Questions: Let your clients know that it’s okay to ask questions. The more they understand, the more confident they’ll be. 
  • Read and Research: Advise clients to educate themselves about legal issues and processes, but always consult a legal professional for guidance. 
  • Know Your Rights: Clients are to be informed of their rights and responsibilities in various legal situations. Attorneys should actively educate their clients to help ease the burden while going through any legal process. 


Simplifying the language of law is not just a service; it’s a responsibility. By helping clients understand the legal landscape, attorneys can foster trust, prevent misunderstandings, and empower clients to navigate their legal challenges confidently. Legal matters are complicated enough without the added burden of deciphering complex terminology. Mastery of the jargon and proper legal consultation from a professional will make the law accessible to all.