Have you ever had that situation where you take the way someone “says something” to you the wrong way?
It gets heated, then awkward, then gets resolved? And your relationship is stronger for being able to deal with it in an open way?
Having been in this situation recently, it struck us that this process doesn’t happen as often as it should between lawyer and client.
1. Well, some lawyers find it hard to be the ‘bad object’ & so this situation never arises. They become a ‘letterbox lawyer’; a channel for their clients’ feelings, never challenging their clients for fear of being sacked. I get why this happens. Clients can be forceful. They’re emotionally invested in their view of things and can’t see any other way of looking at the situation. They overwhelm their lawyer with their entrenchment. With their view that their lawyer should always ‘be on their side’. And that what that means is to agree with them on everything. So the exhausted lawyer just gives up resisting in the end.
2. The other aspect is the teleological mode that is so prevalent in law. What on earth is that? Well, it is a state where someone believes that only concrete observable results will have an impact on how they feel. This mode is EVERYWHERE in the legal world. There’s no appetite for the exploration of feelings in law – it’s all about action. ‘Let’s write a letter’, ‘let’s make an application’. All this action chucked at a situation in the vain hope that it will make some sort of difference to the situation. Sometimes it does. Temporarily. Until the sticking plaster falls off. This is particularly so if you practice in an area where unruly feelings abound, like family and private client law.
All of this means that lawyers rarely reflect on deeper dynamics with clients. If there’s a disagreement then a solution has to be found. That will resolve it. Whether it’s writing off some time after a billing complaint or writing an angry letter to ‘the other side’, threatening a court application. There is little recognition that it could be possible to talk through the difficulties and find some resolution that way instead of just jumping to action.
What’s the solution? Well, equipping family law practitioners with psychologically-informed training is a good start as it helps them to address this teleological thinking in their clients.
AND having therapeutic supervision enables family practitioners to themselves become more reflective, therefore bringing that energy to their relationships with their clients.
What do you think?
How often are you ‘the bad guy’?