The adventures (and non-adventures) of a marginally seasoned attorney.

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Monday, December 26, 2011

I'll never be a superhero

When I worked at the legal clinic at my law school, I seemed to be the student who was always getting the clients who cried. I'm not sure why it worked out that way, but it did. Some people were emotional because they had heartbreaking stories and had to overcome so much adversity. Some were simply tired and were releasing stress. Some... well, some I wasn't quite sure why they were crying, but that was always my cue to offer them a glass of water. Glasses of water were never the magic cure for stopping tears, but my trip to the kitchen to get the water gave my clients the opportunity to compose themselves outside of my presence.

I've graduated into a job where I encounter many of the same situations I was seeing in the clinic. I've become a champ at staying calm and composed, telling my clients step-by-step what we need to do to give them the best result, and assuring them that they don't need to feel embarrassed or ashamed about being upset. It's okay for them to be upset. But if they're upset to the point we can't continue the meeting... time for the glass of water. And then we move on.

I know darn good and well that I'll never be the one to stop a person's tears. I can fix the underlying legal problem, but the legal problem sometimes only scratches the surface of everything that needs to be fixed. My legal knowhow is not going to change a person's life or behavior. Each person has to live his or her own life as he or she sees fit.

And so I go to work every morning, hoping for the best but expecting nothing. Perhaps I will find out a client's life has changed for the better. Perhaps I will find out that a client has ignored my advice completely and is back at square one. Either scenario is likely. Neither scenario affects how I do my job. Like I said, I can't fix a person's life. However, if I can fix a small piece of it, it's a good day. 

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