David Giacalone continues his great work over at the ethicalEsq? blog with a piece called “First Thing . . . Let’s Quell All the Liars.”
Among other things, the piece discusses the various interpretations and misinterpretations of the famous Shakespeare quote. Can you believe that lawyers have twisted the meaning of the quote to the point where they argue that the quote actually represents the highest degree of praise of lawyers??!!
David points out a growing perception that increasingly affects lawyers in a subtle but negative way. This perception is one that lawyers must learn to understand and appreciate.
He says, “Like it or not, to the average person, lawyers seem to be in the business of lying, their degree being a license to lie (and steal).”
This point of view is really the default perception that people have of all lawyers. It’s a little unnerving to me, after 20 years of practice, to run into this attitude on a regular basis. Fortunately, it’s usually manifested by people telling me that “you’re not like most lawyers – you’re honest.” I interpret that as a compliment, but, sheeesh, what kind of a state of affairs have we gotten into here?
There are a number of implications of this presumption, but it helps you understand why so many clients will say that the reason that they fired a lawyer was because the lawyer did not return phone calls.
Here’s the way I see it. Client starts with the assumption that lawyers lie. You tell them that you are available to them, will return calls or promise work by a certain date. If you don’t return a call, are late for a scheduled appointment, or are late on a promised deadline, you have not committed a small impoliteness, you have confirmed the “liar” stereotype.
Paying attention to every detail that reinforces the “liar” stereotype has become a necessity these days, especially in the first period of representing a client.
A similar phenomenon also takes place when dealing with other attorneys.
The bottom line: excellent, responsive client service is not just an optional behavior these days.