I have been a lawyer for just about 30 years. I think of myself as a decent conscientious person, who puts my clients’ needs first. While there are a few jerks among us lawyers, the vast majority of us lawyers are the same as me; they are Moms & Dads, Rotary members, church-goers, and decent people who do right by the clients.
So why do we have such lousy press? Some say it is a deep dark sinister plot by insurance companies, big corporations, and folks suspicious of “legal technicalities” in criminal cases.
We know why “lawyer-bashers” bash lawyers. Insurance companies and big corporations have a financial interest in making people ashamed to even talk to a lawyer. The “lock up all the criminals” crowd are sold on fear that may or may not have a basis in reality; we are told by some (especially, some politicians) that crime rates are going up, even though state, local and FBI statistics show that crime rates might actually be going down.
So why are lawyers such easy targets?
I believe that it is easy to make targets of us, for two basic reasons, that boil down to two words:
- Vulnerability; and
Nobody likes to be vulnerable, or thought of as weak, or at someone else’s mercy. We lawyers often deal with people at their most vulnerable worst.
Many of our clients have just been physically or financially hurt, and now must reach out, in a very vulnerable state, to someone they think can help. In situations involving criminal prosecution, our clients are vulnerable to expensive fines, probation, and even jail.
Many of our clients who have not been physically or financially hurt, are fearful of being hurt financially, in business transactions. They hire a lawyer to help them “flyspeck” a deal, again because they feel vulnerable to being taken advantage of. Even in the best of these circumstances, where nobody is trying to rip them off, or defraud them, the clients still wish they did not feel it was necessary to incur the expense of hiring a lawyer.
Sometimes our clients are advancing in age, and are anxious to make sure that their property passes on to people whom they want to reward for love, loyalty, etc. While there is no issue of personal or financial injury, they nonetheless feel vulnerability increasingly brought on by the passage of time.
Somewhat connected to vulnerability is “complexity”. Folks feel like they are at the mercy of others, because they think their situation is complex; usually, folks calling lawyers for help, are calling, because their situations are complex.
HOW LAWYERS CAN HELP
Can your lawyer help you through your vulnerable situation? Can they help you reduce your risk of getting jammed up by a cheap/obstructionist insurance company? Can they get you out of the criminal jam you are now in? Can they help you navigate whatever potential pitfalls you are afraid of, whether dealing with a Guardianship, a decedent’s estate, or some will/trust situation?
Really, this comes down to whether you trust the lawyer to handle your problem. Every lawyer in the world, including me, is going to tell you that we are the smartest man/woman in the world, and that our law practice is the greatest thing in the world, since sliced bread.
However, since you are the one looking for a lawyer, none of the self-serving things I can tell you about myself, and none of the self-serving things other lawyers can tell you about themselves, is going to get you anywhere closer to answering, whether the lawyer can get you through your vulnerability, i.e., your legal problem.
You are just going to have to do your homework.
Not every lawyer is good at every legal problem. Steer clear of anyone who guarantees you what cannot be guaranteed, like a jury verdict, or a settlement amount. If you still think that the lawyer you need to hire is the one who guarantees you a result, especially of something uncertain like a jury verdict or settlement amount….. go ahead and hire them, but expect to be disappointed.
I have been a lawyer for just about 30 years, and initially focused my practice on injury work, and civil litigation. As time went on, I added practice areas, and now handle criminal defense, traffic ticket defense, probate, etc. to the range of services I offer my clients.
It makes economic and business sense for a lawyer in a smaller community, like the one I live in, to offer a broad range of services, but be just as wary of the lawyer who claims to know everything about every area of the law, as you would about a “jack of all trades”. They are often a “master of none”.
People go to lawyers, usually because there really is complexity to their legal problem, and they need help.
If the lawyer understands the problem, he/she will make that complex problem, more understandable for you, and less complex. If they are not doing that, then they are failing at half their job.
How do I make my clients’ legal problems less complex?
There is an old story that communication is best handled in the following way:
- First, tell your audience what you are going to tell them;
- Second, tell your audience, what you have to tell them; and
- Third, tell your audience, what you have just told them.
My experience tells me that clients do not have to be told what they have just gone through; by the time a case is over, they know pretty darn well, what they have been through.
It is more important to tell clients in advance, what they need to know, and to keep them posted, as time goes on.
In my practice, I try my best to tell my clients what they can expect, both in terms of the law and procedure. This of course, will vary from situation to situation.
Secondly, I keep my clients informed by telling them in real time, what is going on. I do that in three ways.
- I keep my clients informed, by blind-copying them on my emails to third-parties (opposing lawyers, police agencies, etc), so that they know what I am doing it, when I am doing it.
- I keep my clients informed, by making myself available to them, 24/7/365, within reason, to answer any questions they have about their cases; in turn, that breaks down the complexity into “bite-sized chunks”; and finally,
- I give my clients my personal, private cell phone number, to make access that much easier.
Call me at 1-877-FRANK-LAW (372-6552) whenever you need help at a critical time. I will help you through it, and I will do it, in an understandable way, that will make your legal problem much more manageable.