Most Law Schools don't teach classes in what their students' future clients really want. Most, if not all, of their classes focus on their students' technical skills – – legal research skills, trial techniques, case law disecting, statues and codes, and the like.
…and most practicing lawyers think that it is the end result — the "win" (sometimes, at any cost) that really matters. But, they would be wrong.
Because, when it comes right down to it, most clients want to know that their lawyer really cares about them (and their case or cause) – – that their lawyer is empathetic.
The dictionary defines empathetic as being "involved, or based on empathy." Synonyms are: commiserative, compassionate, humane, understanding and sympathetic.
Too many lawyers I meet are just the reverse – – callous, hard, insensitive, unfeeling and unsympathetic.
Robert Pagliarini (President of Pacifica Wealth Advisers in Mission Viejo, California) wrote a great article in the Orange County, California Orange County Register Newspaper, entitled, "A well-timed tantrum can show others that you care." He makes some good points.
Pagliarini states that your clients need to see that you care about them and their cause. That when things go badly, they want someone who jumps into action. They want to feel that you care more deeply about their problem than they do. They want someone to get upset, and maybe even swear a little.
Pagliarini says that patience, kindness, level-headedness and understanding are wonderful qualities to embody at work, These are critical characteristics that help boost creativity and productivity and provided a good foundation for managing and leading a team. But if you always operate in "Mr. Nice Guy mode," you will be less effective in building relationships with your clients, and maybe even lose clients. He advises – – don't tell the client you care, show him/her by your actions.
You may possess all the technical skills you possibly would need in handling your client's matter, but "perception trumps reality." If your client perceives you as being ineffective or passive, when what they wanted was someone to fight for them and their cause, your client may be disappointed in you, as their advocate. Don't tell them you care, show them !!!
When you are too rational, too understanding and too controlled, clients may see you as being apathetic and non-caring. Clients oftentimes want to see us "kick some ass."
Many a client has refrained from turning against their lawyer to bring a malpractice action (particularly when the case has been lost) if they felt that the lawyer really fought for them. Sometimes, the client feels worse for their losing lawyer than they do for themselves, because the lawyer demonstrated such zest for the cause.
So, as Pagliarini states, "When the stakes are high, don't be afraid to make a scene and to show people (your clients) you care. Raise your voice – get upset – slam a phone headset or two. Don't make this a daily occurrence or you'll just be identified as that crazy lawyer on the 8th floor. When something goes wrong, try to work it out calmly. If that doesn't work, go a little crazy and fight like your job (engagement) depends on it, because it just might."
JEROME M. BAME, Esq., Coach-Mentor-Confidant to Lawyers, 1001 Talbert Avenue, Suite 200, Fountain Valley, CA 92708; Telephone (714) 962-4477; Email jmb@PracticingLawSucks.com
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