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Getting it Right

I love looking back over the years (decades!) I’ve been practicing family law and thinking about all the clients whose lives I’ve touched and vice versa.  Some lightly, some intensely.  There’s a very rich texture to my professional life, filled with knowing so many different kinds of people at such an intimate level.  People I would never meet otherwise, people with backgrounds and circumstances so different from mine, people who cut hair and fix cars, people who transplant hearts and run big companies, men who cry in my office because they ache from missing their kids so much, women who peel back shirt collars to show me bruises.

One of the ways in which my clients differ is in how they want to work with me, and as far as I can tell, it is not related to any common characteristic such as socioeconomic level or gender. What I mean is the level of involvement they want me to have in their representation. Some clients are complete delegators.  They hire me to do a job – let’s say a divorce – and then they totally rely on me to move things forward, giving me only as much information as I seek from them to move their case along.  Other clients want me to be involved in every decision they make and want to review with me in detail every action I take: every document received, every phone call to opposing counsel, every letter before it’s sent. And most clients fall somewhere in between.  One of the arts of being a good lawyer is figuring out as early as possible in the course of the representation where your client falls on this spectrum and adjusting your approach to fit.

I think I’ve gotten pretty good about making these calibrations – it’s almost unconscious now – but I still make mistakes sometimes.  With some people, it feels like I can never do enough, and for others, they basically just want to go to sleep and have me wake them when it’s over, and that’s not really possible (especially where court is involved!).  If I knew the right sports metaphor I think it would be appropriate here, but I don’t and I wouldn’t use it anyway because I hate sports metaphors.  So let’s just say I’ll just keep trying to get it right, and hopefully I’ll get closer and closer to batting whatever it is.