When I get that first phone call from a potential client, I can usually hear the fear in their voice. Fear is a strong word, but the right word. They fear the unknown (which, especially if this is their first time facing a criminal allegation, is a lot). They’re anxious about what the worst-case scenario is, how long the process will be, and how much it will cost. They’re nervous about the long term impact the allegation will have – on their family, on their career, on their reputation.
Arguably, a lawyer’s most important role is to guide the client from fear and anxiety to understanding and relief. Of course, we give legal advice about the elements of a crime, the applicability of a legal defense, or of possible outcomes. But there’s a reason lawyers are called “counselor at law;” they literally counsel their client through a legal situation. This counseling involves giving legal advice, of course, but often involves more, advising and guiding people through emotionally difficult times. Given the importance of this role, it’s ironic that one of the top complaints I hear about lawyers is that they don’t take the time necessary to explain things, they don’t treat their clients like actual people, and they don’t seem to really care.
I see the role of counselor as incredibly important and have made it part of my core mission to guide my clients through their legal situation with honesty, compassion, and empathy. This begins with the first interaction I have with someone before they are even a client. My goal during a consultation with a potential client is for them to leave the consultation knowing more and feeling better than when they began. Many lawyers see the consultation as a time to sell their services, to make promises about what outcome they will achieve, or boast about their track record or reputation. I take a different approach: I listen to the person, try to understand not only their case but them as a person as much as possible, and then talk openly to them about the legal process, their case, and their likely legal options. It’s no accident that the #1 thing I hear from people at the end of a consultation is that, while they may have had consultations with several other lawyers, they learned more in their time with me than with all the other lawyers combined.
This approach continues after they have hired me to represent them. My team and I keep the communication lines open, regularly updating clients as their cases progress, but also answering clients’ questions as quickly as possible. We understand that not knowing is one of the worst feelings for people facing criminal allegations, so we do our best to answer questions and illuminate the process.
The most rewarding part of my job is a client tells me how much better I’ve made them feel. I hear this throughout my representation – after the initial consultation, as the case progresses, and at the end of the case – but it never gets old. Knowing that I’ve taken a person from apprehension and fear to relief is why I do what I do.