Most of us will need a lawyer, at least once in our lives. The lawyer we hire will be our confident. Our lawyer will keep our secrets. Our lawyer will know about our finances. Our lawyer will hear our complaints. They may see us cry. They will negotiate with our adversaries and listen to our desires and hopes.
Sometimes, our lawyer will be the bearer of bad news. They help us cope. They help us deal. They help us celebrate. Our lawyer will know who we are, where we live, and what we want out of life. Hopefully, our lawyer will understand us. No…..I don’t mean just hear what we say, I mean really understand us on a deeper level.
Surprisingly, not many people do much research before hiring a lawyer. Doing a quick Google-search or talking to your mother’s best friend’s cousin seems good enough for a lot of folks. This lack of due diligence works out really nicely for lawyers with issues, like substance abuse, mental illnesses and poor work ethic, but it’s horrible for you.
Chances are that you and your lawyer will be in it for the long haul. You will spend more time with your attorney then you ever dreamed possible. So what do you really need to know about someone who you will trust with some of the most important matters of your life? Here are a few tips.
- Like a great friend, a great lawyer will be there when you need them the most.
Have you ever had a good friend who didn’t return your phone calls or respond to your emails or text messages? Lawyers are often like this too. Great lawyers return calls and communicate the status of your case, not sparingly, but all the time. They send updates and talk about the future, the things that matter most. So why don’t lawyers return calls?
Lawyers, like many people, have reasons and make excuses for not communicating. They may suffer from alcoholism or depression. Statistics indicate that lawyers suffer from alcoholism and depression at rates significantly higher than the general population. In fact, lawyers have the most alcoholics of any profession. Being too busy is another excuse for lack of communication. Then there is avoidance.
Why would a lawyer ever avoid telling a client the truth? Exactly – when there’s bad news. Did they lose the case? Did they miss a deadline? Are they overwhelmed? When the fantastic lawyer you hired is so swamped with work that they fail to call, they fall very short of being effective. Not only is this not professional, it’s not as uncommon as you think.
Great lawyers, who are genuinely concerned about you, don’t avoid calls. Just like friends, outstanding lawyers stay close. Great lawyers, like great friends, do all that they can to be there and watch your back, especially when you need them.
- A lawyer should always be honest and transparent, but a great lawyer knows how and when to be honest.
Chances are, you will share some of the most exciting things in your life with your lawyer. There are lots of reasons why your lawyer will be the first one who hears your good news, along with the bad. A good lawyer knows how to be honest and clear, without crushing your enthusiasm. Not deflating joy, while dealing with reality, is an art. The fine art of listening, while uplifting others, is a topic touches me personally.
One day, a few years back, my adult daughter told me that she was going on a business trip to Cairo, Egypt. At that time, Egypt was full of conflict and danger. In Cairo, it was not unusual to see men walking casually down main streets with heavy artillery. People wore AK-47’s like jewelry. Needless to say, when my daughter told me she was going to Cairo, Egypt, I was not happy.
I expressed to my daughter, with no reservation, my deepest darkest fears. “Egypt was a very dangerous place”, I said. “I’m really afraid for your safety,” I said.
Unfortunately, I didn’t listen to my daughter carefully enough and wore my emotions on my sleeve. As you may have guessed, my daughter was not very happy. Her joy was crushed. Stonewalling me in no uncertain terms, she said, “Mom, I don’t want to talk about it!” I was hurt. It was quite some time before we talked to each other.
A few weeks later, we had another conversation. This time things were very different. I asked her to explain to me why she was so mad.
She said, “Mom, I expected you to act differently.” She explained to me that she was so excited about her wonderful overseas adventure, that she wanted me to share in her joy not deflate her spirits. She explained to me that my lack of confidence in her, to make wise decisions, was upsetting. Right then and there, I realized I needed to think about what was said and how I responded to my daughter.
To make a long story short, my daughter and I both apologized to each other and we both had a good talk about what had happened. Now, I try to do my best to listen very carefully to others. I try to think twice and talk once. I work on keeping my emotions intact and understanding the situation, before I express my concerns. My daughter also learned that it’s not always a good idea to expect people to act the way you want them to act.
Actually, I think we both learned how to listen and discuss things better with one another. This is the point. Almost all great relationship building begins with a learning curve of understanding. This was one of those learning curve moments, for the both of us. We both grew and became better, as a result of our misunderstanding.
Find an attorney who continues to improve upon their listening and communication skills. Great lawyers aren’t always perfect, but they are honest and they try harder than most to communicate and listen to their clients when they are needed.
- A lawyer should always be respectful and decent, but a great lawyer will respect your space and value your emotional energy.
Some clients struggle with the fact that a lot of lawyers take up too much of their emotional energy. Believe it or not, like friends, some lawyers can suck you down a vortex of critically bad emotional thoughts.
Some lawyers are jealous of other lawyers. Some lawyers have a lot of negativity in their lives. Some attorneys want to dominate your time with things or small talk. They are unclear about appointments and fail to work hard on your case to the point that you feel they aren’t doing even simple investigations and research. All of these types of things can leave you feeling deflated and unsure of what to do next.
Then there are the lawyers who constantly bad mouth other lawyers. This is not good. This could be a good indicator that your lawyer has a few insecurity or mental issues. Be wary of this sort of thing. It really doesn’t matter why, but when a lawyer never has enough time to discuss your case with you, don’t attach yourself to them. Attaching your legal matter, and yourself, to a lawyer who is a mental, emotional and financial suck is like attaching yourself to a leach. Find a different lawyer, quickly.
An outstanding lawyer will respect your space and time. They will be cognizant about your need to do other things, like pick up your kids from daycare, go to an important dinner-date with your partner or spouse or not be late for work. It’s never a good idea to bind yourself to a lawyer who dominates your time and takes all your energy. A good lawyer will respect your boundaries and give you good clear time-frames when something needs to be done and how it should happen. A good lawyer does not expect you to do their work or read their mind. This is also true of good friends.
- A good lawyer communicates well, a great lawyer listens and will know how (and when) to take an attorney-client conversation to a deeper level.
Great, lawyers tend to be appropriately upbeat and care enough to discuss important things. They enjoy listening to stories related to your case that seem meaningful and important to you. Good lawyers give you freedom to talk, gather your thoughts, or simply take a moment or two of silence.
A good friend will give you an ear to listen or a helping hand when you really need one. They don’t cut you off or incessantly talk about themselves. True friendships have a reciprocity of give and take and know when and how to respect your space. The same is true for lawyers. A great lawyer will value the relationship enough to know when it is important and appropriate, to take a conversation to a deeper, more meaningful level. Sometimes this is important. Other times, it’s a necessity.
Of course not every situation is the same. Not every conversation with your lawyer will become deep and meaningful. Lawyers are our trusted advocates. When the circumstances justify the need, like a good friend, an outstanding lawyer will be there to listen.
It is also important to know that we lawyers are a rare breed. We share our lives with people who are uniquely positioned to see us at our best and at our worst, as lawyers and individuals. This is another good reason why taking the time to get to know your lawyer is important. If you’ve seen your lawyer at their worst, and you still trust them, you’ve probably found a great lawyer.
When I was young and I used to go to the grocery store with my mother. When we were in the produce aisle I’d watch her by fruit. She would select melons, for example, by looking at them carefully. When she found a melon she was interested in, she would pick it up in her hands and hold it for a moment or two. She would look the melon from top to bottom. She would touch it, thump it, smell it and press down on its skin. My mother would do all of this before selecting one simple melon. Think about it.
Here, we are dealing with people. It may seem very difficult to deeply connect and create an important and lasting relationship with your lawyer, but it’s not. Connecting with your lawyer is no different than connecting with some of your closest friends. So why not apply these four basic principles of finding lasting relationships, to find a truly great lawyer?
“Great lawyers are like good friends, hard to find, harder to leave and impossible to forget.” ~Attorney Kelly
by Ginger B. Kelly, Esq., June 17, 2015
ABOUT ME: Attorney Kelly is an attorney in good standing, licensed to practice in both the Federal District and State Courts of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Her law practice is focused on consumer debt, finance, bankruptcy and District Court matters. Attorney Kelly is experienced in both criminal and civil trial work. On a personal note, Attorney Kelly enjoys writing and other things, like conservation and agriculture.
NOTICE: Attorney Kelly does NOT provide legal advice to anyone via social media or anywhere over the Internet. Any and all electronic posts and writings, by Attorney Kelly, does NOT establish any type of attorney-client relationship, whatsoever, neither perceived, actual, material, implied or other. We can not stress enough, if you need personal legal advice, always see your attorney. Do not rely upon Attorney Kelly’s posts, writings or any Internet information on websites or social media for your own personal legal advice. Seek legal advice and representation from your own personal attorney.
Copyright © 2015 by Ginger B. Kelly, Esq., all rights reserved.