The dynamics of the practice of law are changing radically. The old model of providing legal services as a commodity, whereby the client is removed from the process, and sees only the end result—and the bill—is no longer viable.
The client of today is much more sophisticated and demands participation in the process. My approach to the client-attorney relationship is by the knowledge exchange, by which I work together with my client as a partner in every step of the process. I learn the environment which encompasses the client’s goals and expectations. In turn, I strive to make the client more aware of the applicable legal context while helping the client to make more informed decisions. The relationship between client and attorney thrives as each of us becomes more knowledgeable of the needs, concerns, and objectives of the other.
My goal is to make the client-attorney relationship more like a partnership—a relationship that is closer, richer, and more productive and meaningful.
I cannot properly counsel a client unless and until 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. 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.