Legal matters and issues are important and objectively speaking, legal advice doesn’t come cheap, so as a client you deserve good advice, good value and above all to feel you are in good hands.
Over the years, in dealing with hundreds if not thousands of clients, the character and experience levels of my clients, reflecting human nature, varies hugely. Some clients are very experienced in business and some in my field, property law, know their way around the property market better than I do and the law nearly as well as I do. Others, such as first time buyers, actively seek out the reassurance that comes from dealing with someone else with a lot of experience.
I always think it’s important to remember and apply 2 fundamental principles to every client situation :-
- It’s not my matter, it’s the client’s matter – the client is in charge and should make the decisions
- Solicitors are agents of clients who are instructed to solve problems, protect positions and maximise the client’s interests. We are not instructed to demonstrate how clever we are.
Confidence is an important aspect of the solicitor-client relationship. Without confidence and trust, a client may be unwilling to accept advice which does not correspond with their own views and ideas as to what may be a good idea or what the law is, and how risks may impact them in the future. With civil law, especially when dealing with commercial property, litigation or corporate advice, we not only advise on law but also business and if a client doesn’t believe we offer advice which reflects and understands the business as well as legal issues, we are in big trouble.
So, confidence is good, and that not only means being confident based on legal experience, it also means having the confidence to deal with people and to be assertive where necessary.
Confidence is, however, different from egotism. It is entirely possible to be confident of who we are and our opinions whilst still fully recognising that ultimately, every legal matter is not about us – it’s about the client.
Being egotistical is, in essence, being obsessed with the self, and unfortunately, historically, many in the legal profession have been viewed as egotistical. If you have used lots of different lawyers in the past, you may well be able to recognise the type. For those sorts of lawyers, who may still believe they are special and different because they are qualified solicitors, they easily forget that they are the agent of the client. For these people, the client should simply accept what they advise or tell them, with no debate. They react badly to any kind of challenge from either the client or another lawyer on a legal issue, seeing it as an affront. In short, the matter or transaction is always about them and not the client.
If you end up instructing an egotist, you may find the experience not only unpleasant on an interpersonal basis but it can have significant detrimental effects on your legal matter. I have lost count of the number of times conveyancing and property transactions I have been involved in have been held up or even scuppered because there is an egotist on the other side. When challenged on a legitimate legal point or a better way of getting the transaction through faster or more smoothly, they will become incredibly indignant. Aside from the many other ways of spotting that they are an egotist, when challenged, their usual response is effectively “it’s that way because I say it is” instead of a logical, reasoned and constructive rebuttal of a suggestion or request.
How to spot the egotist and the confident lawyer
I am not a psychologist but my own observations are that, there are perhaps some basic ways to get a good instinct if you are considering using a lawyer for the first time, including :-
- When you first speak to the lawyer, on the phone or in person, does he or she seem genuinely interested in what you have to say ? Or does he or she interject, correct you and try to control the conversation ?
- Does the lawyer ask you questions about you or does he or she talk about him or herself ?
- Does the lawyer appear to be trying to impress you with legal knowledge ? This may indicate a lack of confidence or a big ego. A first phone call or meeting is generally fact finding and detailed legal discussion is not generally useful for either party
- Perhaps just try challenging the lawyer, very gently, on any kind of issue – do they immediately respond defensively or are they neutral yet apparently knowledgeable and comfortable with your questions? If the latter, that’s confidence, if the former, it may suggest egotism.
I am confident, unless my ego has got the better of me, that I am not an egotist – you may wish to put me to the test, so if you need legal advice or help, give me a call, and put me straight if you find me in any way egotistical !
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