Is it possible that being kind can help lawyers with managing their legal and ethical risks? Yes! One of the main reasons why clients file a bar complaint is because they feel as if they aren’t being truly heard by their lawyer. They also may file a bar complaint because they feel as if the lawyer didn’t care enough to do their job.
How Kindness Toward Clients Can Help with Managing Legal and Ethical Risks
Kindness can resolve a lot of problems in the attorney-client relationship. If you want to reduce the likelihood of having a bar complaint filed against you by a client, it is ethical to care about the client and their matter. You do not have to be as emotionally invested into the problems as the clients, but you should treat their problems as yours to take on for the duration of their case.
Taking on client problems is why lawyers are paid what they are paid. When you care about your client, and when you show that you care, your clients worry less. They know you care. Your show of kindness makes them far less likely to file a bar complaint against you.
How Can You Show Your Clients That You Care?
There are only so many hours in a day. You have a stack of active matters you’re dealing with. How can you possibly show every client that you care? The good news is that there are some easy things you can do. Know all the basics of the client file, even if you run a practice that doesn’t rely on a lot of face-to-face contact. Think about how you’d feel in their shoes if you were the client and your lawyer showed up at a hearing and couldn’t even pronounce your last name or had to ask you basic questions. Not being prepared could very well lead to an increased legal and ethical risk.
Simply put, knowing your client will help you represent them better while letting the client know you care.
Truly taking the time to listen is another way to show kindness to the client. In addition to helping with managing legal and ethical risks, it creates an emotional tie to the firm. This very small act is also an investment into future potential referrals from the client.
Can Kindness Help with Managing Legal and Ethical Risks if the Client Is Already Upset and Threatening a Bar Complaint?
Angry clients often mean threats of a bar complaint, threats of a lawsuit against you, wanting a refund, and wanting their file so that they can take their business elsewhere. When the situation has gone this far, can kindness really help?
The answer is yes. Many of our clients come to us when they’ve hit this stage: someone is threatening them with a bar complaint or with a lawsuit. They want to avoid the disciplinary process. The most common recommendation we give is be kind. Do not fight fire with fire. It won’t get you anywhere. Treat the angry client with kindness. Listen to them. Apologize if it is necessary (even if you don’t think you need to do so). This may help reduce the client’s frustration. This can help you avoid bar complaints and other issues.
Kindness Toward Opposing Counsel
Yes, really. This doesn’t have to be an altruistic experience. You can be kind to your opposing counsel as a matter of self-interest. It’s also better for your client if you can be civil with opposing counsel. Yes, there are situations where being a jerk can be helpful. However, being kind isn’t about being weak or surrendering. It just means you’re acting in a way that’s reasonable.
Kindness as Stress Relief for Lawyers
When you’re kind to your clients and to opposing counsel, your life begins to feel less stressful. As a lawyer, you have enough stress to deal with. Alcohol and substance abuse problems are rampant in the legal industry. Depression and anxiety are serious problems, too. Being kind can make you less anxious. You may also find that you’re more effective since you have less stress. Incorporate mindful kindness into your practice and see what it does for you personally and with managing legal and ethical risks!
This blog post highlights the key points of LawyersGoneEthical episode three, The Role of Kindness in Reducing Ethics Complaints. You can listen to that episode for free by clicking here.