You know this may sound a little bit corny, but I really mean it, and growing up, you know, a lot of us grew up with parents who taught us the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” and I think a guiding principle I have (and try to instill it in all of our lawyers here) is: Put yourself in the shoes of your client. What are they going through?
And understand that they haven’t been doing this for 5 or 10 or 20 years, or 30 years, whatever the case may be and that some of it’s new to them, and generally it is or can be traumatic, and cause a lot of anxiety. And so if you understand that –
- It causes you to be a little more understanding and compassionate, I think, in the attorney/client relationship.
- It reminds you of the importance of explaining things to clients.
“Why is this taking so long,” or, “Why are we doing this? Help me understand.”
And I think, if you had to kind of put it in a single phrase, I think it would just be to realize that all of your clients, even big corporate clients, you’re really dealing with people. These are people who have feelings, who have concerns, and they’ve come to you to resolve those concerns. And you can either go about that in a way that’s painful for everybody involved (and sometimes no matter what you do it’s painful) or you can go about that in a way that minimizes the pain. Where at least they understand what’s going on, why it’s going on, the need for it… And sometimes your explanations may not do the trick for them because it’s what the law is and they don’t like the law! But then if that’s the case, explain it that way.
So I think the mantra that we follow or the guiding principle that we follow in attorney/client relationships really is helping clients to understand what’s going on, being empathetic to their situation, and probably as much as anything being very communicative.
One of the biggest problems I hear about attorneys *everywhere* is they don’t communicate. And we even go so far as sometimes if a client calls here and says, “I haven’t heard from my attorney and I want to know why.”
So I’ll go to the attorney and say, “Well why aren’t you communicating with this client?”
And they’ll say, “Oh, well because nothing’s happening.”
I’ll say, “Well then communicate that nothing’s happening!”
And they’ll say, “Well nothing’s happened in the last month!”
“Ok, well every two weeks say, ‘Well guess what: nothing’s happening! So relax; you don’t need to worry.’”
Put yourself in the shoes of your client. What are they going through?
Given that most people think of lawyers as being great communicators and having oral skills, they do (most of the time) have good oral skills because they’ve trained and practice and that’s what they do, but having good oral skills and being a good communicator is two different things.
And we really try to– and it’s an ongoing process– but we really try to help our lawyers be good communicators. We don’t always succeed but we certainly do our best. And so I think that’s another guiding principle we have is just, “Communicate with your clients.”
– Rulon D. Munns is an experienced real estate attorney and managing shareholder of Bogin, Munns & Munns, a full service law firm with offices in Orlando, Clermont, Kissimmee, Orange City, Daytona Beach, Ocala, Melbourne, Gainesville, and Leesburg, Florida. He welcomes questions and comments regarding the above and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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