There is good reason many people hate lawyers. Opinions you hear about lawyers from friends and media result from their personal experience with a lawyer or having been thrust into the legal system usually against their own choosing. Lawyer jokes aren’t prevalent because people hate lawyers who they think make too much money. Many lawyers are the same as you, struggling to pay student loans, keep their offices open, hold on to their jobs or advance, or just flat out just having a hard time financially. The jokes and negativity come from how lawyers handle themselves when dealing with their clients and others, not because they are successful. Success achieved through honesty and hard work should never be ridiculed or destroyed because of any form of jealousy or a sense of entitlement. However when success is achieved through deceptive or non caring means, such behavior can be fodder for such things as lawyer jokes.
As with any profession, there are good and bad people in it. If you are unfortunate enough to be involved in the legal system whether it be in the criminal, family, or personal injury arena, the lawyers you deal with and who represent you or protect your interests will have an effect on you mentally whether you realize it or not. Our mental health is key to our physical well being so this is a matter not to be taken lightly by those who choose to become lawyers or work in the legal system. One reason I love my job is while I cannot change what happened to a person I represent, how I handle their case or situation will affect their mental health. If I do a good job, while I can’t change their injury or circumstance, their mental health will not suffer while going through what is likely a system that lacks justice or fairness. My best work has often been with people who suffer in serious situations, cant seem to catch a break as we go through the process, but who at the very end were the first ones to say thank you for being there and explaining things honestly. This is a positive result mentally for the person for whatever reason and it makes them come out of their situation much better than they would have had I not have done what many lawyers fail to do often without even thinking about it. As with the family lawyer who cant make your ex spouse love you or return all the money they stole as they walked out the door, or the criminal lawyer who represents someone who is innocent or overcharged, if we do things right as lawyers, a bad experience can be managed with a reduction in stress relative to the persons situation.
While I have fortunately spent most of life helping and providing for others and being the strong person you can count on for support, I have personally been on the end of the legal system that my clients are in when they come to me. This includes being a victim of a crime, divorce, bitter child custody battles, the death of a loved one in a car accident, and many other things that have brought me into the legal system where I was not the lawyer but instead the client or perceived victim. I don’t mention this to talk about myself and what was done wrong to me, but to make my clients and those of you out there who are looking for legal representation now or maybe in the future to first ask themselves certain things before choosing a lawyer and deciding if through the course of a representation for your particular case whether that lawyer is or can be the right one for you. This is more important than you think and something I ask all people to think through as they consider our firm for legal representation. The client needs to match with the lawyer and vise versa or the mental health of the client can be harmed which too often hurts the result.
A lawyer has to be a counselor whether they want to or not. A lawyer who says he or she isn’t you’re your shrink is flat out wrong. That does not mean they are there for regular sessions and on speed dial to talk daily about your issues, but it does mean they need to be available timely and talk to you in a way that makes you feel better than you did before you talked. You don’t need a degree in counseling to do this for a client. Your character, ability to show real compassion, and your legal and life experience are much more valuable to a client. Most lawyers don’t have it because they want to do as little as possible for the most amount of money or are so beat down from doing the same job and seeing the same situation day after day for years that they don’t realize or flat out don’t care that each client’s case is an individual one with its own unique issues. Those that aren’t like that and are real people, when combined with their legal knowledge, make being a lawyer one of the most admirable professions on the planet. Aspiring to be this type of lawyer is why I became one and my hope that my clients belief that I am that type of lawyer keeps me getting up and going to work with as much passion now as I did when I first started practicing 20 years ago.
I have found that being honest and direct with clients help them mentally to deal with the legal situation while providing clarity to allow it to resolve with the least expense and in the most efficient manner possible. A lawyer that wont timely return your call or email, gives you answers that make you worry more than when you did before you began the conversation, and seems to have no compassion for you, will affect your mental health and cause the situation you are in to be worse than it is and needs to be. Not every lawyer is capable of this and while it does not mean they are not understanding of the law and can be your advocate on some level, the very best lawyers can do all of this and do it well so the client walks away at the end impressed and proud to know that lawyer.
For those of you who have been through the system, ask yourself how your lawyers handling of your matter affected you mentally. I am guessing if the lawyer was a teammate and a supporter who gave you timely responses and honest interaction, even if the result was still tough to deal with, you were as strong mentally as you could be throughout the process. If the lawyer was distant, non caring, and not someone who you felt comfortable talking to, in most situations you were harmed mentally by your lawyer beyond what you were dealing with legally. If your lawyers actions create added stress then something was wrong. For those of you who have been through the system I am guessing you relate perfectly to what I am saying even if you haven’t thought about it previously. It’s like a personal relationship as you know when things are just right.
Being a lawyer and representing people in legal matters is no joke and one to be taken seriously. Our staff understands the mental aspect of the legal system and how it affects our clients. If you are in the need of a lawyer or thinking of referring a friend to one, ask yourself how you did mentally with your lawyer and look beyond their legal credentials. While it may look great or seem important that a lawyer went to a certain school, was nominated or given awards or ratings by his peers who often have no real idea how that lawyer relates to people on a day to day basis, it’s just as important to know how that lawyers clients felt mentally while interacting with this lawyer. Get these answers from those you talk to before making that call to get representation. If you are with the right lawyer, you will end up feeling strong and ready to battle the evil and injustice that exists in this world because you will find the mental strength you didn’t think you had to do what you need to do to see the process through. Even the mentally strongest people suffer when they are represented by the wrong lawyer. A lawyer who can bring strength out of people and get a result are those that should be at the top of everyone’s list when you find yourself, through often no choice of your own, in a legal system that is getting less and less friendly every day.