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The nature and mechanics of common law systems are to blame for the unpleasant spread of legalese. Attorneys are often reminded that overusing legal buzzword expressions such as “in light of the fact that” instead of “because” denotes a lack of creativity. These clunkers achieve buzzword status due to the legal profession’s herd instinct, which is another stock phrase that can easily become unpleasant through endless repetition.
Social media has created a vortex of buzzwords that challenge the legal body of precedent. LinkedIn, the premier social network for business professionals, recently analyzed its vast collection of member profiles and compiled a list of the 10 most popular buzzwords used in 2012. Topping the list in the United States and Canada was “creative,” which seems ironic, and eight words on the list were also overused in 2011. The two new buzzwords are “analytical” and “responsible.”
In its entirety, the list of top 10 LinkedIn buzzwords in 2012 is:
The Wall Street Journal recommends that job seekers scan the buzzword list and banish those words from their resumes, if not from their lexicon, lest they appear unoriginal and banal to potential employers. This is not so easy, however, since our use of buzzwords is often tied to a deep sense of belonging and trying to gain acceptance within a social or professional group.
If buzzwords are overused or stock phrases to be avoided in the business world, how should we interpret the legalese so often seen on law firm websites? It only makes sense to apply the same advice regarding buzzwords to legalese — and, in some situations, removing legalese from websites makes more sense. St. Petersburg business lawyers may think that featuring legal stock phrases like “cease and desist” and “it has been determined that” will make them appear knowledgeable and stately, but this is rarely the case. Professor Eugene Volokh of UCLA Law School has compiled a list of legal clunkers and their adequate, plain English replacements. It is clear from looking at the list that using the word “sometimes” is more elegant than “on a number of occasions.”
There is a place for legalese, but it isn’t on the social media profiles or webpages of legal professionals. A content strategy resolution for 2013 should be to avoid clichéd buzzwords and stock phrases as much as possible, using fresh voices for writing that speak to prospects and clients in a language that they can clearly understand.
Social Media Mondays is a CaseDetails.com series covering different topics in the social media world on a weekly basis. Check back every Monday for more news on social media and useful information on how law firms can use social platforms to their advantage.