After over 25 years of experience in the practice of law, and extensive representation of snow and ice professionals for the past 17 years, I can unequivocally state the most important element in the attorney/client relationship is trust. Earning the trust of new clients is sometimes a difficult task, but it is a task I must accomplish to properly provide legal representation.
Clients generally come to me when they are faced with a problem. The problem may be a lawsuit, or it may be a business relationship where a Contract is needed to set forth the terms of the Agreement for Services. No matter what the situation, my clients must have confidence they can honestly describe the situation to me, and confidence I will not disclose any sensitive information. People say my clients are generally aware there exists an attorney/client privilege, but they are still at times hesitant to reveal what they believe may be harmful information. It is my job to make sure my clients feel comfortable with me, so my clients may not hesitate disclosing all necessary and important information.
As a young attorney, I quickly came to realize not all clients were entirely forthright. I would start off being provided one version of events by my client, and as the case progressed, I was able to sense the truth was somewhat shifting. As officers of the court, attorneys are not permitted to allow their clients to lie, and there were times it was necessary for me to make my clients aware of this rule.
Thankfully, as my representation of snow and ice professionals grew, I came to realize the industry is populated by hardworking and honest individuals. With very few exception, my clients in the snow and ice industry are merely seeking to achieve what they believe is fair.
When entering into a relationship with a new client, I make sure the client understands I need the client’s full cooperation and trust to achieve the result the client is seeking. As an example, if I am defending a lawsuit brought against a snow and ice company for a failure to properly service a job location, I need my client to tell me if there was a service problem. I always explain to clients that the last thing I want is to be surprised when my client says something harmful to our case in a deposition or at trial, as that does not leave me an opportunity to properly defend the problematic area. If my client explains what may be a problematic area early in a case, we can decide how best to present our position, and many times, we realize the problem is not as significant as it initially seemed. The important point to take from this is to completely trust your attorney, and be honest with your attorney.
Similarly, when I deal with other attorneys, I am always honest, and I always keep my word. If I have dealings with an attorney who is untrustworthy, I will always remember that, and I will always make sure I watch the attorney to ensure he or she acts ethically. An attorney who acts unethically will quickly gain a reputation, and in my opinion, will not be able to serve as an advocate on behalf of his client.
There are clients who are new to litigation, who seem uncomfortable with the process. This is expected, and it is my job, as their attorney, to make them comfortable. I do my best to explain the process, and make sure the client understands we need to trust each other as we proceed. I gain the trust of my client through communication, as I make sure the client understands all steps of the legal process, and is not surprised or confused by the proceedings. I find communication is vital in establishing a relationship and in fostering growth of the relationship.