Business Logic, Passion And A Helper’s Heart

Business logic is listed first only because it is the tested vessel to navigate within. Passion is listed second because once you have the vessel, passion is your wind. It is the one thing that can keep you going when times get rough. And last but the most important is a helper’s heart. It is your heart that will guide you and centers you like the stars in the sky.

All my talk of systems and business might leave the impression that I embrace robotic predictability and want to pump out more mechanical beings in the image of the worst capitalistic clichés. This is not what Lawfirm 2.0 is about.

No matter your motivation for entering law school and following through to enter the profession there has to be the seed of a helper’s heart. I recently had a discussion with a member of the Utah Bar Association. Utah had a bit of a squabble between the legislature and the courts over increasing court fees. The Utah Bar took the opportunity to put together consumer focus groups. I am sure it yielded more feedback then we discussed but in our discussion I was surprised at how much the dissatisfaction expressed by the consumer was rooted in a lack of communication.

Communication is the blood of the “helper’s heart”. It is founded in listening and in speaking, both the left and the right sides, which makes the helper’s heart beat. We all can talk about the best way to accomplish goal “A” or the time in your strategy to hold back on “B”. But it’s all noise unless you are guided by your need to “help”.

Speaking to your client’s need means also to listen to their fears and hopes. Two women in my life have experienced the unfortunate break down in their marriages. Both were represented by excellent attorneys, really top notch. Both recount stories of brusque conversations, mechanical advice based on the law not on their individual realities. In the end (and this is years later) they recount this as their memory of the attorneys. When I probe them further to ask, “Well they did protect your interest?” Both say “Yes, very well but that is what they were highly paid to do.”

There is a disconnect on both the consumer and practitioner side. I have had conversations with many attorneys who have years of impressive practice under their belts. Some feel strongly, “I am not a baby sitter; I am engaged to protect my clients and give them their legal option.” Clearly attorneys are not babysitters and they are tasked with protecting the client and revealing their legal options. But too, the consumer is looking for more from their attorney than brusque conversations and mechanical advice based solely on the law. They are looking for the “value added”. I suggest the attorneys who understand this consumer “need” will be more successful in “branding” themselves and their services in a very positive light.

Empathetic communication is much more about “active listening” than it is about entanglement in a client’s personal life. Empathetic doctors are said to be the ones with the best bedside manners. You can argue, and I am sure some doctors do, that the manners of the doctor does not have any affect if the sick are cured. Even the hardest of views though should note that an empathetic manner does not harm the sick either.

In the delivery of legal services, an empathetic communication style can do no harm. But based on the feedback I hear and experience, the lack of empathetic communication does leave a lasting negative impression even in the face of a positive legal result.