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The Love-Hate Relationship With Your Attorney

By Kristi Dean, Esq.

When I made the ominous decision to go to law school at the idealistic age of 22, I believed that the practice of law was sacrosanct. After all, I grew up in the era of Perry Mason and Ben Matlock; 12 Angry Men and To Kill a Mockingbird. I thought I was joining the ranks of the respected and revered. However, after becoming a licensed attorney, I was horrified to find many folks didn’t see the legal profession in that way.

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In social small talk and inquiries by strangers like “what do you do for a living”,  I would truthfully respond, “I’m an attorney.” Unfortunately, I would often get a response like “I hate lawyers” or I would be told a story about the person’s “litigation from hell” experience.

That was depressing.

I was now fully committed to a profession where I found myself on the bottom of the trust and respect totem pole. I was tempted to tell folks I was a mortician, for I was sure I would get a warmer reception. I certainly didn’t appreciate the assumptions perfect strangers made about my character given my chosen career.

Instead of hiding or denying, however, I asked questions:

  • Why did the general population seem so distrusting of attorneys?
  • What was it about my professional cohorts that made folks grumpy?  
  • Was there a commonality of negative experience and was the cynical sentiment justified?

As attorneys, we must not just take control. I believe it is our job as attorneys to help our clients regain and retain their control. – Kristi Dean, Esq.

People usually come to attorneys because they are having a life or business problem they can’t solve themselves. Some clients have unrealistic expectations and impulsively refuse to sacrifice for compromise and resolution, or they are unaware of the intrusive nature and expense of litigation. Other folks are feeling abused and want vindication; or they are unhappy, resentful, worn down and feel trapped. Irrespective, they have lost control and are vulnerable.

As attorneys, we must not just take control. I believe it is our job as attorneys to help our clients regain and retain their control. We can help them do that by explaining options, presenting our clients with choices and allow them to do a cost-benefit analysis so they can make a rational decision.

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We attorneys sometimes forget “regular” folks peer into the legal arena and often see an intimidating world operating under unfamiliar rules. They hear a foreign language which costs them money with each transcribed or uttered word. Yes, attorneys deserve to be paid well for their expertise. But we should not speak to tout our intelligence or pontificate just to be powerful. Our words, whether spoken to our own clients or to others on behalf of our clients, should be carefully chosen and artfully crafted with a specific and defined purpose. Our words are tools of our trade. Resolution is sometimes preferable to retaliation, and often achieved with less rhetoric.

Like any other relationship, in order to succeed, mutual trust is essential between attorney and client. That trust is earned through communication, mutual fairness, understanding and speaking truth to power. With that trust comes respect; and with respect, a successful relationship can follow.

At Stone | Dean, we are proud and grateful to have some of the finest businesses and individuals as our clients, who respect and trust us to help them solve and prevent problems. After 32+ years of practicing law,  I am damn proud to tell folks I am an attorney.

Kristi Dean, Esq. is the managing partner at Stone | Dean LLP. She has worked tirelessly for small-to-medium sized businesses and insurance companies for over 3-decades, helping them navigate complicated litigation environments. Outside of the courtroom, Kristi assists her clients in laying the foundations of their business through administrative counsel, contract review, and buy-sell agreements. You can find out more about Kristi by visiting her bio here

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