Nothing is going to change tonight. Nothing I say is going to make any difference at all. You’re going to wake up in the same river of shit tomorrow morning that you’re in today.So starts a blog post from Lee Rosen regarding initial consultations in family law. Actually Lee is quoting from comedian Lewis Black, but the passage, and the balance of Lee's thoughts are germane to what we do, and how we should do it.
The initial consultation with a potential family law client is our opportunity to sell ourselves, and land a paying client. Of course we need to be empathetic, and encouraging. At the same time we have to help the person appreciate the situation he or she is in, help the person to frame realistic expectations, and appreciate the extent to which we can help. The tendency is to over promise; only to leave the client frustrated and distressed when we under deliver.
During the initial consultation Lee suggests:
Tell them up front that you can’t make them less miserable. Explain that you can only resolve the legal issues. Tell them it’s up to them to make themselves happy. We don’t offer that service.I found this blog post to be right on. And I agree with Lee completely. Honest interaction and assessment make the relationship much more realistic and workable for lawyer and client.
Don’t stop there. Talk about the money too. You know they’re going to be upset about the cost of the services. Deal with it now.
Explain that they’re going to spend far more money than they’d like. Tell them that you didn’t create this mess, and fixing it is going to be ridiculously expensive. Feel free to explain that their lives won’t be any better when this is over: they’ll still be miserable if that’s the choice they make. You can explain that happy people make their lives happy and that you don’t have anything to do with it.
Will they run from your office screaming? Will they hire someone else who lies to them?
No, in my experience they appreciate the honesty. They’re happy that you’re shooting straight with them. They’re more likely to hire you, not less.
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