If she isn’t a close friend or family member, you know someone with a similar personality. She doesn’t tolerate fools. Although she is not completely humorless, she usually has better things to do than engage in light-hearted conversation.
Her mind is sharp and her use of the English language exacting, although not particularly gentle.
This personality serves her well professionally but creates challenges in her personal life. You tolerate her out of some long-standing loyalty, weakness, or blood relationship.
One day, she gets an unfavorable diagnosis. It could be anything, but let’s assume it’s cancer.
Now, I can imagine accompanying such a fictional friend or family member to a medical appointment. After a while, she informs the nurses that she will be stepping outside for a few minutes. They decide based on prior interactions not to interfere.
As we get just outside the door, she pulls out a cigarette, lights it, and announces “that doctor’s not doing a damn thing to cure me.”
I don’t know whether the doctor deserves her derision, but I recognize the patient in some clients.
Everyone we serve asks at some point in the relationship “can I trust you to cure me,” no matter how overwhelming the odds or obstacles.
I settle on three practices that increase our chances of gaining another person’s trust.
- We are trustworthy.
I don’t mean that we are good, honest people in general. Of course, that’s true.
I am talking about traits associated with helping someone solve a problem. That means, we are truly honest about our capabilities and limitations.
As difficult as it sounds, we may have to admit that we don’t have all the answers. Sometimes, we are well served to decline to help or our greatest service is finding someone else to assist.
Most important, we do what we promise to do.
- We establish reasonable expectations from the beginning.
Our clients require access. But that access has natural and healthy limitations. Our ability to respond, meet, and prepare varies based on a variety of circumstances.
Certain things are beyond our control. Helping others distinguish what we can and can’t control is important to establishing reasonable expectations.
A prognosis can be difficult, even for the most experienced and skilled professional. Helping our clients recognize the obstacles that stand between our understanding of any given situation and the ultimate outcome is the foundation of any good working relationship.
At the same time, it is one of the most difficult.
What is certain is that we can’t afford to allow our clients to expect an outcome radically different from what our experience and judgment tell us is reasonable.
- We show genuine empathy.
That may sound a bit strange coming from a criminal trial lawyer. Sometimes we represent people who committed horrible acts or, more often, made really stupid mistakes.
But, several things are critical to remember:
- Self-inflicted wounds hurt just as much as the ones caused by someone else.
- The world’s view of a person is often wrong, especially following the grinder of assumptions, gossip, and social media.
- Many people find themselves in trouble because of these misconceptions, misunderstandings, and false conclusions.
Either way, we should not be doing this work or providing any other service that involves human frailty unless we can appreciate something about that person’s background or circumstances that led to our relationship in the first place.
We are criminal trial lawyers. We represent people accused of criminal offenses who risk losing everything. We work to get them their best results and back to leading productive lives.
Call if you need us, or if you just want to say hello.
P.S. Tomorrow, our “little one” graduates high school, all 6’5″ of him. Congratulations Will! (Although I doubt you read this far even if you got this message.)