Quick, what’s the least known challenge for lawyers? It’s our desire to be useful, needed and helpful. We question ourselves, wondering why clients ignore our advice, fail to respond to our emails and eschew our requests. It’s not only lawyers who are unresponsive. Clients are, as well.
But unlike clients, lawyers often end up blaming ourselves. No more. Stop it. Some clients cannot or do not want to be helped. Here are three writers who knew this fundamental truth.
- Check out "The Prince" from Niccolo Machiavelli, a classic on giving and taking advice, where he observes that a prince who is not wise can’t be well advised. Substitute "client" for "prince," and the idea really hits home.
- At the start of "The Odyssey," Homer writes of the voyage of Ulysses, who sought to bring his men home, "[b]ut he could not save them from disaster, hard as he strove—/the recklessness of their own ways destroyed them all…” Isn't that the truth with some clients, especially ones who refuse to even listen to a lawyer's guidance, let alone be directed by it?
- And, finally, passive clients, the ones who fail to engage in the lawyering process, were foreshadowed in Ecclesiastes 4:5, "The fool foldeth his hands together, and eateth his own flesh." Now, that's an apt image.
Lawyers, give yourselves a break. We can’t save everyone.