Lawyers have a fear of sounding unintelligent or incompetent, use these tips to help you showcase your expertise within your practice area.
There is a massive drive for most lawyers to always sound intelligent and informed. Lawyers respect competence in others, which means they are most likely insecure about sounding incompetent to their clients and peers.
Appearing incompetent to both clients and colleagues can set your firm on a downward trajectory. Language, whether it be verbal or written, is where most people look for confidence and reassurance, especially when speaking with an attorney.
Here are the seven words to avoid that can give you an incompetent impression to clients and other lawyers alike:
You are an expert in your practice area, especially if you have developed your firm to serve a particular niche group. Saying maybe makes you sound like the opposite.
When talking with a client or providing insight for a peer, every question or crossing thought should be answered with a yes or no. Competent people have answers and they’re able to make a choice between whether something can or cannot be done.
Sorry is a word that is too often expressed. It should only be used for a genuine apology when you make actual mistakes or truly feel genuine remorse for a person or situation.
Overusing sorry will make you sound less sincere during those moments that do require an apology. Also, it can give the impression of procrastination, that you are apologizing to buy yourself more time. A helpful tip to overcome overusing sorry is to say “Thank You” in its place.
“Like, does this make me sound more professional?” No. If you want to sound professional and articulate, you cannot ramble on like a juvenile.
Like is used most often as a filler word, stalling the conversation and allowing you to prolong your thoughts. A simple fix to help avoid overusing “like” is to simply slow down. This will not only help you to focus on speaking clearly and using the right word but will also help listeners better comprehend what you are saying.
There is always that one person who seems to know it all and constantly corrects everyone around them. While you are an expert in your practice area, and some of the things your clients say might not be true, try to refrain from over correcting them by saying actually.
If there comes a time when you need to say actually, try using simply, really or truly instead. This can make you sound more old-fashioned, but that is better than coming off as rude.
Similarly to like, just is a filler word that does more harm than good. Often we say it without realizing, and this can make you sound tentative, unsure or even apologetic.
In addition to other filler words such as like, um or okay, you will avoid sounding incompetent by focusing on what you are saying/writing and removing them all together.
Using the word hopefully will leave a similar impression to maybe. It goes against the personal brand of expertise you have worked so hard to achieve. Hopefully will make you sound unsure, passive and unreliable.
Remember, intelligent people are decisive and give straightforward answers. Don’t “beat around the bush” or give your clients any sense of false hope. Your clients will appreciate the quick and honest response, and you will enhance your brand as an expert.
To be confused is human, but when discussing with clients, admitting to confusion can have adverse effects. Confusion is the opposite of confidence. No client wants an unconfident lawyer representing them, and no colleague will want you providing insight on their case.
You can get around this dilemma by simply rewording your responses. Instead of claiming to be confused, you could simply ask “can you explain …?” or state, “I need more details about…”
In order to have a long and successful legal career, you will need both clients and colleagues. If you sound incompetent, you are far less likely to get either. Use these tips to avoid words that lead to an incompetent image, and show off your expertise in your practice area.