Lawyers get a bad rap. They rank somewhere below congressmen on the scale of most distrusted professionals. While the profession is sometimes held in low esteem, statistics say that most of us like and respect our personal congressmen and our personal lawyers. It is one of those uniquely American paradoxes. I have known several lawyers during my experience in business. I have never known anyone, lawyer or otherwise, who was more decent to the bone than this one. Jennifer is a treat. A real, honest-to-goodness treat for the soul. She’s brilliant and funny too. And, can you imagine it, her husband is a lawyer with a clever twist, a huge smile and a delightfully warped sense of humor. The man is simply a prize.
I met this tiny woman with the giant voice and the huge laugh many years ago. Our business was being sued for copyright infringement and breach of contract. And, for a lot of money. Our insurance company contracted with her law firm to handle the case. Jennifer picked it up. When we saw her at our first meeting, both my husband and I were smitten. She and I worked together on this frivolous, harassment lawsuit for nearly two years, I think it was. Since it involved fairly complicated industry-specific details, I emailed hundreds of pages of documents and information and whining tirades to her. She never lost her cool. She kept me sane … well, sort of.
Several years later, we sued a business for a legitimate breach of contract involving a related industry contract. By that time, Jennifer had become a dear friend. We didn’t care about the money. As my husband said, it was the principle of the thing. (That sounded a little like faux indignation coming from him, but…) The lawsuit was settled at arbitration. Now, that was fun. She and Dean and I sat at a table outside the wall of windows looking into the arbitration room and drank coffee and joked and had a good time. Let me tell you, the process is somewhat like a poker game or bidding at auction. The arbitration lawyer brings an offer to us, and we make a counter demand. This game of Blind Man’s Bluff goes back and forth for a good while. Finally, when one of us is hungry, we settle. That was pretty much the way it was. Later, the guy whom we sued, came by my office to pay up part of the settlement and said he hoped this was the last of the skeletons in his closet. We parted with a hug and a laugh. He was a rascal, but he was a charming rascal.
I tell young people this in order to tell them something else. No matter what you are selling, whether it’s aerobic treatment plants or poetry, the first thing you need is a lawyer. You need a lawyer even if you are not selling anything. Lots of people today seek counselling for all sorts of life problems that used to be settled by chance or lived with or not imagined in the first place. I recommend consulting a good lawyer instead of a counselor for assessing ones life situation and resolving its inevitable problems. Lawyers are, by personality, education and experience, the best counselors. They don’t take up the practice of law because they have problems of their own. They weigh facts, evidence, personalities, motives, and likely outcomes every day.
Lawyers are trained in the practice of finding solutions much as modern psychologists are trained in solutions based therapy. What is the point in spending years ruminating about why you sweat? That solves nothing. Why you sweat is not the problem. Sweating is the problem, and you want to stop doing it. Lawyers are mediators too. They don’t spend years listening to couples list each others faults and unacceptable behaviors. Instead, they broker deals with people to come to mutually acceptable solutions to problems. And their rational approach makes them very good at it.
If you are lucky, you will find a lawyer who is smart and one who is also a trusted friend. I was lucky and blessed too. I wish you the same good fortune.