On Tuesday, November 8, 2016 I was officially sworn in as an attorney in the State of Georgia. One week later I had the privilege of handling my first consultation. To be candid, I was nervous. Family law is a delicate area of the law. Mothers and fathers, wives and husbands, children, all seeking help at a desperate time. In preparation, I thought through the process and strategy of how to handle the consultation. Should I use technical jargon? Should I use legalese to impress the potential client? Should I try and connect and make jokes to ease the tension and the pain the potential client was dealing with? Should I be frank and to the point?
I quickly learned that consultations cannot be scripted. Yes, you can plan and prepare and know the basic facts and law, but every consultation, every person, every matter is different. It is important to remember that there is a person on the other end of that phone or sitting across from you. They are there seeking help during a difficult time. Yes, you can use technical jargon and that may impress the potential client. Yes, you can use legalese to impress the client. Yes, you can connect and make jokes to ease the tension. But the most important part of a consultation is to listen the potential client and provide answers to difficult questions whether that is through jargon, legalese, jokes, or simple conversation.
An attorney must not only be skilled at the law, but skilled at understanding people. It is important to recognize and understand and empathize. Put yourself in your client’s shoes so that you can better understand the struggle they are facing. But it does not end here. Just as it is important for the attorney to connect with and understand the client, it is essential that the potential client to connect with and understand the attorney. An attorney is also a counselor. Thus, the professional relationship formed with the client must be one of trust and mutual respect.
This may not be true in all areas of the law, but Family Law is one of a kind. You are charged with protecting people’s greatest asset, their families. As a great person once said, “this is not a job, it is a calling.”