On Listening

I cannot properly counsel a client unless I understand the client’s world, the space in which the client operates. I need to view that world from the client’s perspective and gain as much knowledge as I possibly can about the world the client sees.  I need to go beyond merely asking what the client's expectations are. To counsel an automobile dealer, a real estate developer, a restaurateur, a plumbing supply house, I must know and understand the elements of each of those businesses. To prepare an effective estate plan, a shareholder or operating agreement, a personal services contract, I must grasp the needs of the individual client by putting myself in his or her place.

All too often, lawyers rely on their form books, their computer templates, and, most importantly, their lawyer instincts to be the all knowing advice giver.  Instead, I listen to my client, to learn his or her needs and expectations, and I ask questions when I need to learn more. My focus is always on the client. Once we as attorneys begin to try to impress a client with our knowledge or supposed wisdom, or try to tell the client what to do, we stop listening.  We then lose that focus and do the client a great disservice.

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