Skip to main content

Why is it So Hard to Trust Lawyers & Mechanics?

Today, I took my vehicle to a car dealer for an air bag recall and they “inspected” and “found” other things wrong with the vehicle. One of the supposed problems is something I recently replaced so I am understandably skeptical.  The whole interaction has left me feeling sick, because either they’re right and I’m too distrustful (and have to fix my car) or they’re lying and that’s just crappy.

The bigger underlying problem is that, while I have some ability to diagnose and fix my car, I’m not an expert so I am at a disadvantage.  Since some mechanics/dealers lie or exaggerate problems to increase their business, even if it is unusual it makes all the good mechanics suspect by association.

My car repair experience gives me a glimpse into the discomfort a client feels when seeking a lawyer.  Clients want to fix their situation the right way, but not be taken advantage of, and they don't have the expertise to know the difference. If you’re an honest lawyer (or mechanic) it’s frustrating to have clients distrust our diagnosis of a case or try to self-diagnose with mixed information online.  However, it's completely understandable because there are bad lawyers out there.

From the client side, one solution is to get a second expert opinion, or a personal referral. I generally try to cultivate relationships with experts so I can trust their advice (a problem when I take my vehicle in for a recall rather than to my regular mechanic).   But the solution shouldn't be up to the client.  Service providers have to do better.

The dealer could have delivered better, more reliable forms of information. They sent me a link to an explanation of the problem with generic pictures of the type of problem they diagnosed.  If their communication had pictures of my actual vehicle I might have been more likely to believe they were accurate.  It would have been fairly easy to do with today’s technology.   The dealer demonstrated objective knowledge of how to diagnose the problem, but did not demonstrate subjective knowledge of my vehicle having that problem.

Similarly, many lawyers are good at demonstrating objective knowledge of the law, and in ways that clients can verify (providing statute and case references, providing summaries online, linking to useful resources, etc.).  However, demonstrating subjective knowledge of a client's situation is more difficult because we can’t just take a picture. We need to actually demonstrate understanding because a client’s legal problem is often a combination of events, circumstances, and emotional reactions.

A good intake form can detail many typical  events and circumstances, but only effective active listening can give us knowledge of a client’s full legal issue by allowing us to understand their goals, values, and feelings about their legal issue. If we can demonstrate to a client that we understand who they are and how they want to resolve their issue, and we are knowledgeable about the legal context, then, and only then, can we truly help a client find resolution in a way that they can trust our process and the result.

Active listening and understanding is as critical to good lawyering as it is to any other service business. It may be harder to accomplish as a lawyer though because we can’t just take a picture of our client's problem to show we understand.  Even worse, they don't teach active listening or customer service in most law schools.  We recommend lawyers take mediation training to strengthen their active listening skills (and it wouldn't hurt mechanics either).

If you're interested in a mediation training, Divorce Mediation Training Associates has two 5-day mediation trainings per year.  The next one is in March 2019: learn more here.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

What is the purpose of the Divorce Nisi waiting period?

In Massachusetts the statutory waiting period after a Judgment of Divorce and before the divorce becomes final (or absolute) is called the Nisi period. After a divorce case settles or goes to trial, a Judgment of Divorce Nisi will issue and it will become Absolute after a further ninety (90) days. This waiting period serves the purpose of allowing parties to change their mind before the divorce becomes final. If the Judgment of Divorce Nisi has issued but not become final yet, and you and your spouse decide you don't want to get divorced, then you can file a Motion to Dismiss and the Judgment will be undone. Although many of my clients who are getting divorced think the idea of getting back together with their ex sounds crazy, I have had cases where this happened. In addition to offering a grace period to change your mind, the Nisi period has three other legal effects: 1. The most obvious effect of the waiting period is that you cannot remarry during the Nisi period, be

Does a Criminal Record affect Child Custody?

If one of the parents in a custody case has a criminal record, the types of crimes on their record could have an effect on their chances of obtaining custody. In custody cases the issue is always going to come down to whether or not the best interests of the child might be affected. In the most extreme case, in which one parent has been convicted of first degree murder of the other parent, the law specifically prohibits visitation with the children until they are of a suitable age to assent. Similarly, but to a less serious degree, in making custody and visitation determinations the court will consider crimes that would cause one to question the fitness of a parent. These types of crimes would obviously include any violent crime convictions which could call into question whether the children would be in danger around a parent who has shown themselves to resort to violence when faced with conflict. In addition, drug and alcohol abuse offenses would call into question a parent&#

What happens after my Divorce Agreement is approved by a Judge?

If you filed a Joint Petition for Divorce in Massachusetts then you will participate in an uncontested divorce hearing and the Judge will then issue Findings of Fact the day of the hearing.  A Judgment of Divorce Nisi will issue after thirty (30) days, and it will become Absolute after a further ninety (90) days. This means that if you file a Joint Petition for Divorce you are not legally and officially divorced until 120 days after the divorce hearing date. If you filed a Complaint for Divorce  then your case will end either with a trial (if you don't settle) or an uncontested divorce hearing (if you settle).  If you reach an Agreement, then a Judgment of Divorce Nisi will issue and be effective as of the date of the uncontested divorce hearing, and it will become Absolute after a further ninety (90) days. This means that if you file a Complaint for Divorce you are not legally and officially divorced until 90 days after the divorce hearing date. Therefore, for 90 - 120 day