Today, former Apple evangelist Guy Kawasaki posted an interview with Chip and Dan Heath, authors of Made to Stick. I enjoy reading Guy’s blog because he writes in an engaging and easy-to-read style that most of us would love to emulate. Anyways, in the interview, the Heaths explain the Curse of Knowledge:
Think of a lawyer who can’t give you a straight, comprehensible answer to a legal question. His vast knowledge and experience renders him unable to fathom how little you know. So when he talks to you, he talks in abstractions that you can’t follow. And we’re all like the lawyer in our own domain of expertise.
To put it succinctly, “when we know something, it becomes hard for us to imagine not knowing it.”
This is particular true regarding the lexicon of legal professionals. Since our 1L days, law schools have drilled terms like torts, negligence and standard of care into our heads, such that when we want to describe a personal injury action, we often turn to these familiar terms and concepts—familiar to us, that is. After a while, it becomes difficult to determine whether lay persons also refer to drunk driving as DUI or an error made by a doctor as medical malpractice.
However, I do know that the Heaths’ explanation does not apply to all lawyers. Many trial lawyers are able to breakdown complex legal concepts and explain them to a client or a juror without resorting to jargon. When writing for your law firm website or blog, strive for the same goal. Communicate to your readers by using their vocabulary so that when they search using their own words, it will be your words as well.