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How is a lawyer like a doctor, a therapist or a golden retriever?

The other day, I was listening to an interesting podcast about the efficacy of management consulting. Does management consulting really have an impact on the bottom line of a business? The short answer is "yes," although it is hard to prove. In many ways, the same can be said for the work that lawyers do in helping their clients to avoid risk.  Most of us would agree that good lawyers bring value to their clients, but that value can be hard to measure.

During the podcast, one of the guests talked about how a consultant is like a doctor, a therapist and a golden retriever. After hearing the podcast, I realized that the same could be said for a good lawyer. It may not always be possible to measure the value of avoiding a risk. But a lawyer who acts like a doctor, a therapist and a golden retriever is probably doing a good job.

Like a good doctor, a good lawyer can connect with his/her client. He/she understands the client's underlying needs and not simply the client's "presenting" needs. Good lawyering involves good professional judgment. A skilled attorney knows how to dig below the surface to uncover the "real" issues. He/she doesn't simply take what the client says at face value.

Like a good therapist, a good lawyer is a great listener. A good therapist will ask a client a set of questions which helps the client to achieve a self-discovery. Similarly, a good lawyer helps the client to make decisions; but he/she recognizes that ultimately, it is the client who owns the decision.

Finally, like a golden retriever, a good attorney forms trusted relationships with his/her clients (okay, this one is a bit of a stretch). By forming trusted relationships, a good attorney is able to gather all of the information he/she needs from the client in order to render good legal advice. In addition, a lawyer who builds trusted relationships with referral sources is more successful in growing his/her law practice.

Tip courtesy of Stephen Seckler, president, Seckler Legal Consulting and Coaching.

Published November 29, 2012

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