During initial meetings, the potential clients come in and tell their tale. They are looking for an attorney who will listen, show empathy, and give them a general game-plan. Most of these clients also have specific goals for what they’d like to accomplish. In a family law case, for example, a client may want a specific result, like fifty-fifty custody, the house, child support or maintenance, etc.
Instead of listening and showing empathy, many attorneys become the naysayer. They begin telling the potential client that what they want, they shouldn’t want (or that it will never happen). So, take the client who wants fifty-fifty custody. They begin trying to talk to the client out of this goal. They start explaining why they should want something different, that it will never happen, etc.
Obviously, an attorney will ultimately have to give a client a reasonable assessment of what the possibilities might be for a case. This involves going through best-case, worst-case and middle-level scenarios after all the facts have been obtained and the variables assessed.
The reality, however, is that the attorneys who want to naysay (during an initial meeting) almost always focus only on the worst-case scenarios. They don’t spend much time talking about the best-case and middle-level scenarios. They don’t outline potential strategies and the pros and cons. They don’t give IRAC based answers (Issue, Rule, Analysis, and Conclusion). Instead, they just try to talk the potential client out of wanting what they want — when they’ve just met the potential client and there is no rapport.
In initial consultations, lots of variables aren’t even known. The attorney might not know what judge this case would be before. The attorney might not know who opposing counsel might be. The attorney can’t know the entire story or factual scenario in an initial meeting even if it’s a lengthy initial consultation.
Maybe in some rare cases, the potential clients’ goals are so utterly outlandish and frivolous that an attorney might need to become a naysayer in a very gentle manner with a lot of explanation. But in the vast majority of cases, this is just not the case.
At the end of the day, attorneys who simply naysay and look pessimistic in initial consultations don’t have many clients. On the other hand, attorneys who listen, show empathy, show relative confidence in their abilities and who give a reasonable assessment (after making sure they know all the variables) have lots of business.
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