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Walk in Your Clients’ Shoes - Mervyn Braude

Categories: Culture, Article

JW Way: Walk in your client's shoes.

JW Way Fundamental #4: Walk in your clients' shoes 
"See the world from their perspective. Empathize by understanding their fears and concerns and showing you care. Ask, “If I were in their shoes, what would I want to know and how would I want to be treated?”

This fundamental is all about empathy which is:

Seeing with the eyes of another - Listening with the ears of another - Feeling with the heart of another 

In relation to our clients, we need to identify and understand their feelings without personally experiencing those feelings at that particular moment in our lives. We need to be fully aware of our clients’ problems even though they are not our problems at that time. We must be able to view the world from our client’s perspective.

Perhaps a step into the world of medicine illustrates the point. To the surgeon, the operating room is where she goes every working day, the instruments she uses are merely the tools of her trade, and the environment is familiar to her. From the patient’s perspective, the operating room equates to a torture chamber, the scalpel amounts to a dangerous weapon, and the environment represents an unfriendly, unfamiliar, and undesirable location - typically combined with an unknown expense - to be avoided.

The courtroom is analogous to an operating room from the perspective of our clients. Most often, our clients are unfamiliar with legal arguments, pleadings, hearings, motions, and other legal processes and we must recognize that this unfamiliarity breeds fear, stress, and anxiety. We must have empathy for their feelings or we cannot connect. 

Fortunately, empathy is a skill that can be learned and developed through consistent effort. We can do this in three ways:

  1. Make a continuing and conscious effort to see, listen, and feel from the perspective of our client or from the perspective of our spouses, family, friends, and co-workers.
  2. Recognize and understand our client’s perspective – even if you view that perspective as illogical or invalid from your standpoint.
  3. Provide as much information as reasonably possible – it is often the fear of the unknown that drives the client’s stress and anxiety. 

About the author:  Mervyn T. Braude is a family law attorney at the Phoenix law firm of Jaburg Wilk.  He is a State Bar of Arizona certified family law specialist.  He can be reached at 602.248.1000.