16 Wishes: What Lawyers Want Clients to Understand

Posted on 12-30-2016 by
Tags: understanding , misconception , stressed lawyers , wishes , morals


Here’s what a lot of lawyers wish clients knew: that they aren’t blood thirsty, money hungry connivers.  Lawyers are often the unfortunate victims of misconceptions.  TV shows, like How to Get Away With Murder, do a good job fooling the public.  However, legal fiction is far from the legal truth.

Consider this anecdote in the Lawyerist:

“You may have heard the story about the lawyer who abandoned his Ferrari in rising flood waters so he could make it to a hearing.  Instead of taking the time to save his car, he abandoned it in order to get to court on time… Everyone was amazed except lawyers, who were like duh…”

Not all lawyers drive Ferraris, but all lawyers sacrifice time, money, and sweat for their clients.   And when litigation happens, the process is far from pizazzy. So, to shine a light on the truth, I have gathered the opinions of lawyers who expressed what their wishes were.

Part 1: Lawyers’ Caring and Surprising Lives

“After a client signs a retainer with me, I look them in the eye and tell them ‘Okay, you don’t have to worry about this anymore. Your problems are now my problems.’ It is just a thing I say, but it is a true thing I say. My clients go home and sleep soundly for the first time in weeks or months. I go home and think about the legal issues all evening.”

As demonstrated by this quote from Lawyerist author Sam Glover, legal ethics are far from the daily fiction.  These lawyers on Reddit agree.

  • “We’re not all filthy rich.” And, “Thanks to loans most of us do ok at best.”
  • “We aren’t all awful people looking to screw you over or bill more hours than necessary.”
  • “I’m a professional pessimist – I look at your situation and think of the ways it could go sideways.  Then I tell you how to recognize the most likely of those so you can catch them and fix them early, when it’s still cheap to do so.”
  • “Our job is not to ‘screw your opponent,’ or make them beg for mercy...”
  • “We are the only person who is 100% on your side, all the time. So, if we’re telling you something you don’t like, or if we didn’t stand up and yell at someone when you thought we should have, there’s likely a damn good reason for it.”
  • “You can’t call me at all hours of the night and expect an immediate answer. I’m a person with a life too.”
  • “It’s hard to make money as a lawyer… Most [graduates] burn out of [their] jobs within 3-5 years and then make less money or even leave law. It's very common. [Many] wash out of law before even really practicing.  I know lawyers who are now wedding photographers, cops, children’s book writers, working construction, teaching English in Asia.”

Part 2: Litigation is Far From Glamorous

“Sure, sometimes we get to make impassioned speeches to a jury, or rush to a police interrogation room at 3 a.m., but most of the time, our lives aren't quite that glamorous.”

As the rest of this article by Bustle author Jessica Mason explains, the real nitty gritty isn’t so fabulous – like these comments on Reddit pointed out.

  • “We don’t have all the laws memorized.”
  • “Honestly, we don’t collude with anyone.  Sometimes, however, you just get a bad outcome.  We are lawyers, not magicians.”
  • “There is really no such thing as a ‘will reading’ when a family comes into my office and I drop a bombshell from the will.”
  • “We don’t do every kind of law… Just because I helped you with that DUI doesn’t mean I’m going to be able to help with your bankruptcy.”
  • “Good contracts reflect the parties’ shared desire to do things right. They’re not some slimy plan to screw over the other guy.”
  • “We push lots of paper.”
  • “We truly don’t judge you or your decisions, so tell me the damn truth about your life. The embarrassing detail you omit may be crucial to me getting you a better outcome.”
  • “I can file forty cases a year and maybe never even enter a courtroom for any of them. Everything settles out of court… I've done litigation for eight years and never done a trial.”
  • “You want to file something in court? There’s a state rule then a local court rule then the judge may have a specific rule. There are even rules about formatting the doc, deadlines to file, how to file.”

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