Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Use or Abuse of Fear in Lawyering

Using fear as a tactic has always bothered me. It is such a base thing to leverage a person's psyche against them. There are experts at doing this, and then there are Jewish mothers. I know all too well the throwing of guilt and shame to influence children. The outright manipulation with passive-agressive behavior. "Don't you worry bout me Larry, I'll just sit here in the dark, cold and alone, and wait for you to call." It may take 20 or 30 years but hopefully you catch on. Remember we must give (or feed) into it or it (guilt or fear) subsides. I now say, go ahead and throw it (guilt) but I'm no longer a guilt catcher.

Using Fear

When I see and hear of attorneys (and other professionals) using the unknown to pressure people into making decisions it goes directly to the issues of fair play and common decency. It is in a word, "unnecessary" to play the fear card. Frightening people into submission, and then dominating them for your own gain is wrong.

Fear in Pushing (Selling) Criminal Defense Representation

Attorneys telling someone that a long period in jail is likely unless they hire them is dishonest. Yes, there are situations where short or long term jail sentences are a reality. But the ranges of punishments need to accurately assessed and explained. I call it "exposure," what is my client exposed to? How likely are the different outcomes, and under what circumstances?

Fear in Pushing (Selling) Surgery in Personal Injury Representation

In the area of personal injury law, pushing or persuading people into an unnecessary procedure or surgery to add case value (worth) is like selling body parts. How much is your health or the health of your organs really worth?  Would you sell a limb? Well, having an un-needed surgery may cost you in the long run.

Clients need to know the long term consequences of any and all decisions. That is what doctors refer to as "informed consent."

Have they been informed about complications? Have they been informed about the potential need for future "revisions" (more surgeries)? Have they been informed about "collateral" medical consequences? In spine fusions, the areas above and below (the fusion) are going to have to take up the slack so to speak of the non-functioning (fused) areas. This increased pressure on those joints will likely make those sections wear out faster, get arthritic (inflamed, irritated), and require care.

As a Chiropractor I advised my patients to try conservative options first unless surgery was immediately necessary. You can always go (or be) more invasive. You can always step up the intensity of the approach to a problem but often serious procedures have serious long term consequences.

"Every" Decision has Consequences

Good counsel will explain both sides of each and every event. Nothing is one sided. Look carefully.

Great counsel will reveal all benefits and detriments of available options. Be thorough.

Excellent counsel will help and assist the client to make the best decision for them (not for their case or anyone else).

Faith Based Decisions

And finally, Outstanding counsel will be proactive, and link their client's values, goals, and future hopes to a well thought out "faith" based decision. Fear is always shaky, uncertain, and disempowered. Replace fear with faith. But not blind faith but well reasoned, and with a plan set (and designed) in the clear light of day. For as the bible says, faith without works (proactivity) is dead.

Dr. Lawrence A. Newman
Doctor of Chiropractic
Attorney at Law

504 North Aurora Street
Ithaca, NY 14850