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It’s about the clients

It has been a privilege to contribute to the Generation J.D. blog for The Daily Record for the past year, but this will be my final post, at least for a while. I’ve hit a streak in which I’m spending a lot of late nights at the office or working at home, and I simply don’t have the time to devote to regular blogging at the moment. Plus, let’s face it, I’m really pushing the boundaries of this “young lawyer” concept.
But before I go, I have one more thought for you: Don’t forget about your clients.
Clients are the reason you exist as a lawyer. Law school strips the human element from the law. You spend three years reading judicial opinions that focus on points of law rather than the people involved in the case. Then, if you join a private firm, you generally spend years locked away from clients working on antiseptic document review and other discovery grunt work, while writing the occasional motion about a narrow point of law. You don’t even know who the client is.
By the time you reach the point in your career where your bosses trust you to be in the same room with a client, you’ve been trained to extract the cold, hard facts from them as quickly as possible so that you can go back to the safe, emotionless world of motions and letters and discovery fly-specking.

Don’t let that happen to you. If you’re representing real people, you need to be around them. You need to spend time with them. They’re paying you to win a case for them. You need to learn their story, learn why they care about their situation enough to hire you, and learn what they hope to achieve by hiring you. Don’t assume you know the answer. You have to ask.
You can’t let emotion cloud your legal judgment, but don’t be afraid of becoming emotionally invested in a case. It’s a fine line sometimes, but a professional should be able to stay on the right side of it. Show your client you care and have some understanding of what they are going through. Don’t assume they know that. You have to tell them, and show them. A dispassionate lawyer lacks credibility with his client. If a client doesn’t think you understand what he is going through, he won’t trust your judgment. He’ll think that he is just a dollar sign to you. Surprise your clients. Show them that you care.
You are blessed to be a member of a profession that can do a tremendous amount of good for the people who hire you. Don’t forget the reason why the profession exists. Honor your clients.