Monday, January 30, 2012

Larry Newman, Attorney and Counselor at Law is there really a difference?

Some lawyers use the designations: Attorney and Counselor at law. Whether it appears on their business cards, stationery, or a sign is there really a difference between the terms? Is it merely just a matter of semantics? Is there really a separate and distinct division between the two things?

As a younger man I was a Chiropractor. In Florida, I was called a Chiropractic Physician. Our Board was the Board of Chiropractic Medicine (kinda like jumbo shrimp). Some would dispute the use of those terms. Some might even dispute the use of the title doctor. By the way, doctor merely means teacher. I am proud of my chiropractic (holistic) background, and my humble academic education.

I believe that the bulk of true learning, and real education does not take place in schools. Life is the great teacher if you allow it to be. I have learned a great deal about many important things outside of school. I am an avid reader, seminar/conference goer, world traveler, seeker of experiences, and curious george. 

My greatest lessons came at the hands of a fate. I learned about loss when I buried my father at age 17. I learned about compassion for those without voice at the hands of a stutter that left me speechless for years. I have been a witness to senseless suicide, and marveled at the miracle of unconditional love. Fatherhood and husbandhood have taught me because I have allowed them to. My wife and four kids have taught me humbleness, gratitude, and the honor of service to things unseen.

With the passing of a great many years my skin and demeanor has thickened, I say under my breath, “thank G-d.” I am not rattled by name calling or basing who and what I am on a title or a term. Who or what I may be can be decided by the people I feel privileged to serve. I am much more to them than any professional designation.  I’ve been called so many things good and bad by the full gamut of humanity over the course of 26 years. No one has ever called me anything worse than I have called myself (in my own head).

The “Attorney at Law”

In my belief, lawyer (attorney at law) means someone versed in, and able to apply the law. Using a great many skill sets (within a specific area or areas) they hopefully can file motions, write briefs, argue law, cross exam witnesses, make opening statements, deliver closing arguments, and pick a jury. But all too often a lawyer will choose to fight a protracted war when more sensible remedies may be at hand.

The “Counselor at Law”

Counseling people as an attorney may or may not be something that all lawyers can perform successfully. Counseling requires communication that is more than legal. It is an art and science to explain, to enlighten, to guide, and to inspire clients.

Going Beyond the Sidelines

I believe that clients need to be participants, and not merely spectators. They need to understand their options. They need to make not just choices and decisions with their lawyer’s guidance but make informed choices and informed decisions.

Speaking the language of the client means more than their native tongue. It means getting to know what is important to them (their values). How do they place their values along a hierarchy (a scale) of least to most important? What matters most to them may not be what I may assume it to be. It also means understanding their end range (long term) goals.

Counseling Clients

Injured clients need a medical advocate. Sometimes they need someone to interpret and balance their health care providers. Clients may require assistance in weighing the long-term risks of surgery, rehabilitation, potential disabilities, temporary and permanent impairment, and the myriad of life altering decisions.

Criminal defense clients need to know all the collateral effects to their situation. What about their long term plans to pursue a professional license, a position of employment, or an opportunity in another state or country? What hurdles will they need to surmount? What can be done now or in the immediate future to help them with that?

Personal counseling could take the form of providing resources, giving direction, and creative thinking. The attorney as counselor dynamic integrates multiple aspects of a person’s life. There are legal issues at play with the competing social (family) issues with hard to avoid financial issues with logistical (practical) planning. A counselor will assist a client best by not giving all the answers (making choices) but by asking them the right questions. Leading a client is the real goal. To lead a client to their best choices means forsaking all else by placing their needs and desires first.

I have had cases that I wanted to fight. These were matters I felt strongly about. These were situations where I could taste blood. I wanted so badly to drag it out, to knock them down, and to win at all costs. I wanted these lawsuits, and to take them to court. But they were not in my clients best interests. They were for me but not for them.  I have since grown up. There is a new and better version of myself, the 2.0 Larry Newman. I can now recognize when this demon emerges. The counselor places it all in perspective, reverts back to square one, “what is in the best interests of my client?” That must always be the primary question. Patients are afterall NOT a disease or a condition. The real doctor must treat the patient. Clients are NOT their legal cases, they are people with problems. Some may require a lawyer (to handle their case) but many more have problems that require a counselor at law. 

Dr. Lawrence Newman
Attorney and Counselor at Law
Doctor of Chiropractic

504 North Aurora Street
Ithaca, NY 14850