What do lawyers do? Being an attorney isn’t always about dramatic courtroom scenes and wearing expensive “power suits” – although that does sometimes happen. (And yes – grandstanding is fun!)
Lawyers solve problems. The following represents my philosophy as a professional problem solver.
- Following the “golden rule” pays.
Treating others fairly promotes good will and warm feelings – but also helps avoid needless conflict. Stated another way: being nice is usually cheaper than a lawsuit.
- Avoiding a mess is easier than cleaning one up.
If you’ve ever cooked eggs, you know how difficult mopping a gooey mess off the floor can be. Wouldn’t it have been easier to just pay attention when you were cracking the egg over the bowl?
In legal matters, as in cooking, it’s best to plan carefully with an eye toward avoiding problems. Paying for an hour or two of an attorney’s time on the front end is cheaper than spending thousands on avoidable litigation.
- Fortune favors the prepared.
Good outcomes sometimes happen by accident. Rather than relying on luck, however, a better strategy is to take proactive steps towards your desired goal.
- The “easiest” solution is not always the best one.
Unfortunately, one size doesn’t fit all. A great weakness in the human mind is our tendency to seek intuitive, easy answers to life’s messy realities. Before implementing a solution that “sounds” right based on what you already know, do your homework. A more nuanced solution may better suit your needs.
- Lawyers are a downer – which is sometimes what you need.
In the heat of the moment, it’s easy to lose perspective on a situation. Lawyers spend their working lives dealing with soured relationships. One of the greatest values of seeking legal counsel is learning how things commonly go wrong. Armed with this knowledge may help you avoid an expensive pitfall.
- When things go south, use your best people skills.
Despite our best efforts to avoid problems, sometimes “life happens.” When conflict develops, it’s easy to feel angry, hurt, or betrayed. The more productive – and more difficult! – response is to use our emotional intelligence. An apology, although humbling, is less painful than a lawsuit; forgiveness is more satisfying than a grudge.
- Transparency reduces suspicion.
Particularly in close family or business relationships, openness and honesty prevent needless conflict. When someone is left out of the loop, it’s natural for them to feel like something “wrong” must be going on. Though transparency takes effort, it pays handsome dividends by reducing suspicion.
- Look for “win-win” solutions first.
No one likes getting a bad deal. One-sided contracts are a recipe for bad blood and eventual conflict; in litigation, one-sided outcomes are expensive, as the attorney must fight tooth-and-nail to achieve them. In the long run, win-win solutions create the most value.
- Litigation is about money – not hurt feelings.
Going to court is expensive and emotionally exhaustive for the participants – and quite lucrative for the attorneys. Lawsuits should be undertaken only after careful consideration of the risks and rewards. While fighting over the “principal of the thing” makes sense if you hope to affect social change, it’s a terrible way to settle a personal grudge.
- Speak softly – and carry a big stick.
Play nice and play fair – but always keep an ace in the hole. In the planning context, create win-win solutions designed to minimize conflict – but write in an “out” should the other side break its promise. Be prepared to “go nuclear” – but try the kinder approach first.