Having practiced law for more than 30 years, I know that going to a lawyer is not something people do lightly. By the time they contact an attorney, they have probably dealt with an issue for a long time and now feel like they have no choice but to seek legal help. Usually the person feels desperate.
But what is the role of the lawyer? Certainly, it is to give legal advice and guidance, but ultimately the client wants an outcome that is satisfactory to them so they can move on with their life. It can be a difficult divorce, conflict over how to care for an elderly parent or disagreements over settling an estate. Whatever the conflict, the client wants to feel they made the best decisions and that their interests are protected.
However, in order for me to be an effective counselor, I have to build a level of trust with my clients, so they heed my advice and feel comfortable with what I am advising. And for me to gain that level of trust, I must first spend the time necessary listening to my client and to their version of the events that led them to come to me in the first place. Simply put, I must listen to their story.
What I found over the years is that people will ignore advise from professionals, even if the advice is objectively sound and reasonable, if they feel they have not been fully heard. Words alone usually fall of deaf ears. On the other hand, if a person feels that he or she has been heard and that the professional genuinely cares about them, they will usually follow good, sound advice and resolve their issues without creating more anxiety and stress for themselves. This is true for all professionals, not just legal advice.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a good time to evaluate the basis upon which we may seek out professional help. If you are involved in a difficult situation, you will help yourself immensely if you seek out professionals who are not only competent and knowledgeable, but who will take the time to know you and your story. That is to say, professionals who know and understand that care always precedes the cure!
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