Lawyers have the opportunity to make positive impacts on many lives, and to become better people, spouses, parents, children, etc. in the process – if we interact the right way with our clients. Clients are not only responsible for feeding our families, but they are people with families themselves. Be humble when dealing with them.
I am not the smartest guy in the world, and I certainly make mistakes every day, but the one thing I try to do all day long is to remember to approach everyone I meet, on the street, in court, in my office, or otherwise with respect. I have encountered way too many people in my profession as lawyers that think they are somehow better than everyone else. Its not just lawyers – I see it probably the worst in doctors – but I can’t control what they do. I can say this – a law degree is not a degree to look down on people.
When I go into the courtroom, the first person I look at is the bailiff. In Charleston, the same guys have been sitting in there since I started going in there in 2000, back in the temporary courthouse in North Charleston. I waive to them and acknowledge them. The judge is not more important than they are. I am not more important than the court reporter, and I am certainly not more important than my clients.
I think that I have ben relatively successful first as a result of God’s blessing my life and secondarily trying to remind myself to use the time, treasures, and talent (if any) that I have the right way. Again, I do not always do it, none of us do.
No lawyers would have jobs if not for their clients. Defense lawyers often have to act very polite to an adjuster – whether they like them or not – because its the source of not only that case but future cases. Furthermore, their clients are often professionals, such as CEOs, doctors, or just general affluent businessmen.
On the other hand, many Plaintiff’s attorneys will never see their clients after the case is concluded, and their clients are often those without an advanced degree in something, people that aren’t super sophisticated – people that are probably like a jury would be if you think about it.
I have learned a lot more by spending days in court, in depositions, and in mediations over the last seven plus years with people who aren’t exactly like me in terms of background, than I did for that amount of time sitting on the other side as a defense lawyer. Growing up, I went to an all white private school in elementary school and later transferred to a public school that had people from all parts of the area of different backgrounds. I learned a lot about life there at a young age.
People look up to their lawyers, and the things we say and do can have a big impact on their perception of our profession. I try very hard to let my clients know they are my “boss” and to treat them well. I had absolutely the most FUN working the past two days, and wanted to put this down before it left my mind.
Two days ago, I had a mediation with a client from Ohio, and we spoke in great detail about her life and family and background, in the down time during the mediation.
Yesterday, I had a mediation with a family from the Beaufort area, and hung out with family members from their late seventies to a five year old boy.
We actually delayed starting the mediation so we could set him up in my office to watch Despicable Me (a kid’s movie) instead of having to sit in a conference room full of old people like me. I had so much fun with him sitting at my desk and pushing buttons on computers and being a kid, that it really inspired me in the mediation itself.
At the end of the day, believe it or not, I was having such a good time with the family I didn’t even want mediation to end – on a Friday afternoon. But it was time to go home and be with my own, which is a whole another set of blessings to speak about on another day.
I learned yesterday that the eldest member of my family had grown up boxing with Joe Frasier (I previously represented
Joe Frasier’s niece in a case), and I learned about the little boy, Christopher, and his mother’s life and how she dedicated
herself to taking care of him. She was at the mediation to support her mother, and to get justice for her grandmother’s injuries and death.
I feel like we have a wonderful opportunity to interact with people in an intimate setting that few people get to do in their professions, and, that when we listen to their stories, we become not only better lawyers but hopefully better people.
– Nathan Hughey
See also a post I wrote in the middle of little league baseball – “Little League, Law and Life”