Saturday, July 14, 2012

What's the Number One Reason Clients Divorce their Lawyers?

Divorce is not just between a husband and wife. People can divorce their siblings, their parents, their children, and even their attorneys. Technically a divorce is a lawsuit, it is the use of litigation to sever a legally binding relationship. But divorce is also a parting of the ways, a division, and a separation of the parties in ANY relationship. Your relationships are one of the most important aspects of your life. They can be both a blessing and a curse.

To me, your state of mind, your state of practice, and your state of sanity (mental and physical health) is all about your relationships. If your relationships are working, then things are generally good (stable, balanced, and healthy). If your relationships are suffering, have huge periods of friction and conflict then things are bad all the way around.

Three MUSTs To a Great Relationship 

1. Relationships require effort.  

People that tell you that if it's "right" then it's effortless are full of BS OR they have not been married with children OR have not been a long term committed relationship with any significant life events. Effort means caring about the other person enough to "get" them. What is important to them? Which by the way may mean absolutely nothing to you. My wife loves quilting. If I was to negate that, think that that activity is stupid, that it is a waste of time and money, you tell me where would I be (literally and figuratively) ... out on the street. Done, over, I am toast. Because everyone has a different set of values. What they feel or think is important. Is it valuable to them? What is valuable to them? If you are communicate with this person you must speak in terms of their values, and their importance level.

2. Relationships require communication.

I have people contact me that are either currently unhappy with their lawyer or have just gone through representation and feel as though they know nothing about their case/situation. People must communicate to have a relationship. This is the number one relationship killer, the Lack of continual quality communication.

Communication is quality and quantity

You don't have to always speak a lot to say a lot. You also do not have to speak everyday. But that said you must focus your attention on the issues. Everyone wants something. I have said this before. What they want is for their values to be met. If they care about their family, then how can you assist them with that? If they care about their freedom, how can you assist them with that? "What have you done for me lately," is more than a song lyric. Lately is time sensitive but what you do is where quality of actions lie.

I believe people don't always like the truth but without it you are headed for trouble. Living in a juvenile mindset about your issues is not going to help you solve anything. I have lost clients because of this honesty but leading people to believe in a fantasy is a recipe for disaster. Facing reality is not pleasant but it is healthy. 

I do not cringe when my clients call, or not want to call them back. 

WHY? Because if you start with truth (factually and legally), lay a great foundation (knowledge), and face reality head on (proactively) with a plan of action then you are in a healthy relationship.

Attorneys Must be Excellent Communicators to be Excellent Counselors

I recently had a person tell me that their attorney was not returning their calls. On top of that the attorney dumped by email 40 pages of discovery documents (police reports, etc.) and a plea offer  
from the prosecutor with NO explanation, and a simple call me to discuss.

Now to make this situation worse, this attorney never laid out the framework for their case (how the process works) or a legal strategy or any of the realities of potential defenses (factual and legal) or what the client was facing. Now we have a client that is not only frustrated but scared. Fear comes from the unknowns. What comes first, second, and last makes me feel better. What can happen? What will happen? We don't always know everything but to get clarification (get clear) on any parts is calming.

A Simple Formula

More unknowns = more uncertainty = more fear.  The most basic thing that any attorney can do is bring out some certainty. What are the ranges? What is likely? What is unlikely? What is a fantasy? Can I justify anything? What can I do to help you? I like to answer the questions before the questions. If a proper groundwork is laid out in the beginning then we have a firm foundation. This is true for building a house and for building a relationship.

Three Must Haves in Attorney- Client Communications

1. The Before you go to Court communication
Discussions Prior to starting the process. Proactive steps you can take. What to expect?

2. The During (pending) Court process communication
Discussion about Pre trial conferences, discovery of evidence, facts and legal circumstances, plea offers, trail considerations, potential hearings and motions. The detriments and/or benefits of all of it.

3. The after Court (post sentencing) communication.
What are my conditions/obligations/terms? What will the future hold directly and collaterally?

3. Relationships require feedback. 

I ask my clients and my wife how they are doing. As we go along with anything, everything is in process, a progression, life is either moving forward to another conclusion or we are falling behind. Do we add or do we subtract from this process by our acts or omissions? Our partners are there to assist us with these decisions. Changes can be made with less cost and with ease if we have feedback. Monitoring feedback allows us to anticipate needs and to allay fears BEFORE they arise.

Lawrence (Larry) Newman, D.C., J.D.

Doctor of Chiropractic
Attorney and Counselor at Law

504 North Aurora Street
Ithaca, NY 14850


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