“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”
– Albert Einstein
I think that is absolutely true, and I don’t think it can be overstated. If the client can’t explain the problem, then they don’t understand it. In their distress, they may not understand their circumstances well enough to explain what it is that’s bothering them. They may not know what the problem is that needs solving.
The lawyer’s job is to draw it out of them, find the facts, and understand what their feelings, intentions and needs are. The lawyer can provide feedback to the client to help the client understand what the real situation is and what they really need and want.
In turn, the attorney has to be able to explain the situation to the client. It isn’t that you need to dumb things down. Albert Einstein was no dummy.It’s that you need to understand it so well, or well enough, that you can explain it to whomever, at whatever level they are. Albert Einstein doesn’t have to say the same thing to another physicist that he would say to his milkman, but he should be able to explain it to the milkman. That’s not to assume that the milkman is stupid; it’s just unlikely he’s studied physics.
Our clients are not stupid. In fact, our clients know more about the situation than we do. If they don’t understand what we’re explaining, it’s our fault, not theirs.The lawyer’s job is to understand the client’s circumstances and understand the solution well enough to be able to explain it simply.