Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Other Side of the Desk

Sometimes as a lawyer, I want to switch places with the client, and say "Here, you sit at my desk, I'll be the person with the problem, and you can see what it's like." There are many things people don't realize about lawyering. Here are a few....

There is never "one right way" to handle something.

There is usually not a "right answer" to any question. Anyone can find THAT, and the client would not be there if there were. Most situations are multi-layered, with results coming in inter-dependent layers. Not so simple.

We often don't know, but we know we can find out.

Sometimes the best research is "calling someone who knows".

The Courts really don't care about your case or your problems. It's not that they are mean or callous (though some are), it's that there are so many cases and so many problems that they CAN'T care. When clients don't understand this, I refer to it as "terminal self-importance".

Court clerks really know the court system. Lawyers have to be nice to them or nothing gets done.

The best lawyers are not the fancy talkers, but the straight talkers. Clients, judges and juries like them best. The best trial lawyers fit this description.

You can make a lot of money as a lawyer, but not all do. It's not a license to print money, and many lawyers struggle financially.

Ethical questions come up every day. This is not because lawyers are unethical, most are highly ethical. Questions come up because the nature of solving problems involves knowing where the legal and ethical boundaries are.

We often feel "besieged", by clients, Judges and adversaries.

Law practices have the same issues as any for new business, controlling overhead, managing employees, with the added overlay of a "product" (legal services) that is difficult to quantify.

I don't see lawyers as a problem in society....when people say this my reaction is that lawyers reflect societal values. I would not deny that defective social values breed the legal behavior many abhor.

One skill lawyers have to have, and most DO have, is the ability to explain things. If I want something explained (like a baseball play, or a movie), most lawyers are above average-excellent at this. Many times as a lawyer, if I am trying to persuade someone, the MOST important aspect of persuasion is to EXPLAIN THE FACTS CLEARLY. Once that is done, the argument is essentially made.

OK, let's switch the seats back.

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