What is the true mission of an attorney? Recently, I began reflecting on this subject as I prepare to celebrate sixteen years practicing law this month. Is the purpose of an attorney simply to “win” the case? Is an attorney’s job only to get what their client wants? Should an attorney try to see that justice is served for all concerned? I believe that all of these things are part of an attorney’s job, but I feel the true purpose of an attorney is to counsel their client regarding the underlying problems that led the client to need the services of an attorney in the first place. Serving as sound counsel and providing solid advice to my clients is my number one job, and I believe that is what I am called to do. I think of myself as a counselor at law.
Often times I see clients come through my door facing criminal charges or a divorce. Those are real problems, however, I believe that my job is to help determine why the client is in my office facing these issues. Does the client have an alcohol problem, a drug problem, or suffer from mental illness? Are they co-dependent or are they being physically or mentally abused?
Once I identify the problem, then I can address it with the client, and try to assist them in getting professional help. After all, if you don’t address the underlying causes for your client’s problems, then those problems will continue to recur. I think of if like this, “Give a man a fish, feed him today. Teach him to fish, feed him forever.” I don’t believe I should ever simply try to put a “Band Aid” on a problem and gloss over it. I need to help my clients address their problem or issue head on.
A client hires me to tell them what they need to hear, not what they want to hear. Think of it this way, if you go to the doctor and your stomach hurts, then you need to know why. You don’t want the doctor to conduct a body scan, see numerous tumors in your stomach, and then tell you everything is fine. You want and need that doctor to tell you the truth, and then set out a treatment plan to address those tumors. My job as an attorney is exactly the same. I have to diagnose the client’s underlying problem, and then lay out how we are going to address not only the current manifestation of their underlying problem, but address the underlying problem itself.
You should never hire an attorney that simply says, “I got you out of trouble this time, and if you ever get in trouble again, then give me a call. Just be careful.” What has that attorney really done for you? If you come back again with another criminal charge or with another divorce or contempt, then they will have a harder time helping you the “next time.” Wouldn’t it be better to never have to experience a “next time?” I think so, and so do my clients.
If I can help my clients address their underlying problems, then I don’t just have a loyal client, I have a loyal friend, because I have had a positive effect on their life. That is something that they will never forget, and neither will I. The old saying goes, “If you want to keep it, then you have to give it away.” I try to remember that every day.
So, if your attorney isn’t talking to you and counseling you about why these issues have reared their ugly head in your life, then maybe you need another attorney. You need a counselor at law who will help diagnose and treat the entire person, and not just the symptoms that arise from the underlying problem. If you want to try a different type of legal representation, then give me and the attorneys at Phillips & Ingrum a call! We’ll be glad to help you, and we look forward to building a long term attorney-client relationship and friendship with you and your family!