One of the things about being a lawyer that most people don’t think about is that most law schools don’t actually prepare you how to run a law firm or talk to people. You see this a lot with some really excellent attorneys when it comes to going to court or being an “expert” on a certain area of law. They are the leaders in their field but can’t carry a conversation.
As a result of some attorneys not being trained on how to work with customers or not having common sense, you will find that many law firm leaders act like what they think an attorney is supposed to act like. So men and women who in their own social circles are relatively normal will start using big, fancy legal jargon that nobody understands when a client is in the office because they think that is what they are supposed to do. Quite honestly the best training I got to run a law firm was from waiting tables and bar-tending for four years. Talking to people is often an acquired skill.
Another way that many attorneys screw up is by acting like they are an expert on everything. Too many are afraid to look dumb if a client asks a question and they aren’t sure the answer. They have internalized a belief that since they went to law school and passed the bar, they should have all the answers.
This brings me to the best three words an attorney can say to you: “I don’t know.”
When a lawyer says that they don’t know an answer, it’s often a great sign. It means they aren’t trying to put on a front. It means they are being honest with you. It shows they are humble. These are all great qualities. If an attorney has been trained to handle medical malpractice lawsuits, they shouldn’t feel embarrassed if they don’t know what’s going to happen to their cousin who got arrested for retail theft. Why should they know that answer? It revolves around something that they never deal with.
And even if the client question is an the area of law the attorney focuses on, they can’t know everything. The reality is that unique issues come up all the time. Rather than act like a know it all, a good attorney will tell the client that they aren’t 100% sure and ask for time to do some research.
Another phenomenon that happens to me based on running a service that tries to connect people with the right lawyer for their case is the ability to recognize the client knows something you do not. While I can properly vet most accident, criminal and family law cases, there are a ton of laws on the books I know nothing about. I recently got a call from someone with questions on Medicare Supplement Insurance law in Illinois. It’s nothing I had ever looked at and they quite honestly educated me. I handle a lot of contested life insurance cases now, but my first education in to that was from a consumer who had been through the ringer with that stuff.
Of course at some point you want to get with an attorney who does have the answers. But if they act like an expert on everything, to me that is a sign of a very insecure person who will let their insecurity take over and will offer advice even if they are just talking out their back side. That’s not good for you and the type of attorney and person you should avoid.