Thursday, September 30, 2010

Fortune teller at law

When I first got into the practice of law, I had what I now see as misconceptions about how you deal with clients. Namely, how a lawyer works to shape his or her client’s expectations as to what may or may not happen at the next court hearing, oral argument or trial.

This leads me to three truths about being a lawyer:

1) Lawyers never know what will happen next. (Despite being paid to do exactly this)
2) Lawyers plan for the worst. (Hoping for the best can be billed while sitting on the toilet)
3) Lawyers will always let the client believe they know exactly what is about to happen.

I’ve spent the better part of the last week preparing for a mediation where the clients tend to be quite demanding. Included in the preparation has included multiple discussions with my partner about my discussions with the opposing counsel:

Me: He said that they are looking to resolve this case.
Partner: But how did he say it?
My partner and I spent the next hour breaking down every single word used in the 55 second conversation and then we moved on to the inflection, the pace of speech and the tone of the attorney to determine what his bottom-line position really is on the eve of this mediation. Our conclusion: “They are looking to resolve this case.” We are educated tea-leaf readers.

The good thing is that we can be dead on, balls accurate and present the client with a precise “what is about to happen scenario” down to a specific settlement figure.

Without hesitation, the client will then tell us to politely f*** off.