We are all familiar with the proverbial “bed-side manner,” or lack thereof, associated with physicians. However, rarely do we hear of the same for attorneys. Most times, our clients are relying on us to guide them through the most difficult time in their lives, and most clients have no idea what to make of the situation. Simply acquiring a good result may not be the most important task with which we are assigned.
Although it seems elementary, I think we, as legal professionals, forget that we are obligated, as counselors at law, to reassure our clients. In the words of Ted Borrillo, my mentor’s mentor, it is very important to tell your client, up front and often, “It’s going to be okay.”
Having pondered this concept, I would suggest the following should occur with every single client:
- Re-assure your client. Most clients have never gone through a divorce, custody battle, criminal charges, personal injury, etc. They need to be re-assured that the process is (or should be) designed to provide justice and fairness, and that, except for those very unusual cases, a breakdown of the system will not mean that their life is over. Clients need to be told this from the beginning of your representation. Do not patronize your client. Be honest about the risks and repercussions. However, do not forget to tell your client that there is “a light at the end of tunnel.”
- Share a professional, or personal, experience. Think of a case that you have handled, or a personal situation that you have gone through, that could be of benefit to your client. Without divulging confidence, share that story with your client. This is a moment when your experience as an attorney uniquely equips you to counsel your client.
- Repeat step 1 and, if necessary, step 2. Most every case is a marathon. Clients will experience emotional ups and downs throughout. Merely encouraging your client at the beginning of the case likely will not suffice for the entirety of the case. Make a mental note to be encouraging to your client every single time you have contact with them. If you do not have frequent contact, consider placing a call or e-mail to your client solely for the purpose of encouraging your client.