What Do You Not Stand For?

 In Living Our Best Life, Office Practice is Life Practice, Practicing Law and Life

Knowing what I don’t stand for informs many of my daily decisions. In fact, it guides me as often as what I do stand for.

Money, efficiency and “being right” are in the top 5 list of “Things I don’t stand for.” While I do want all three in one form or another, they are not the drivers or end goals. I use them to accomplish what’s most important to me.

What is in the forefront of my mind dramatically shapes how I think, see and interact. It affects not only my experience, but the other person’s as well.

If I’m looking at my “mind watch” it will seep into the conversation.

When I’m on the phone with a client, if I’m in a place of being primarily efficient and watching the time, the conversation on my end is framed from that place. I’m focused on getting the call done as quickly as possible and moving on the next “thing” . It seldom creates a rewarding experience for me or the other person.

When talking with a potential client, if I’m viewing them mainly in terms of whether it’s a case that I want or don’t want, then I will miss the opportunity to connect in a more meaningful way and help them. I can tell when someone I’m talking to is just about the transaction or about me. It makes all the difference in the world.

I often have appointments with clients to talk about a complex part of their case. If I’m focused more on telling them what the problem is rather than making sure they understand, I’m part of the problem of the legal world. By making sure they fully understand the difficulty is where I affect the greatest changes.

A Shift in the Conversation

I can tell when a conversation has shifted and is no longer about taking care of the issue or relationship at hand. I’ve been on the receiving end of that shift. I can’t always identify what exactly caused it, but I know when it’s occurring. I feel like I’ve gone from being a person to a business transaction. Has that happened to you?

I never know when I have to rely on what I don’t stand for. It can be familiar terrain or not. It’s being clear with my self about what I want my clients to experience when working with me.

What Do You Not Stand For?

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  • Jason


    Another interesting post. I agree that knowing what I don’t want to stand for can often inform what I do stand for.

    I’m at another crossroads when it comes to the subject matters you discussed today. As an example, I value efficiency. It allows me to be more productive, which clients and others around me appreciate.

    Still, sometimes efficiency is not what I nor a client want. There are times when a client needs to vent, and it’s essential to listen as one human being to another.

    Problems arise when efficiency runs smack into the personal relationship side of our lives.

    These days, I am focusing on the language I use to discuss these tensions. If I can’t talk for more than 5 minutes, instead of impatiently watching the clock and keeping my answers brusque, I’ll ask my client (or opposing counsel or adjuster) if I can call him or her back when I have more time to give them. I’ll apologize and explain that I have an urgent matter that I need to address because of the legal system’s time impositions. Most people understand and appreciate the candor.

    Sounds easy enough, but giving clear, genuine communication devoid of assumptions is a work in progress for me. I hope I am improving.

    Take care.

    • Jim Dwyer

      Many things that sound like they should be easy are not. Clear and genuine communication that fulfills what you need to do as an attorney and is a fulfilling experience for a client are not always the same thing – and both are needed. You are doing a great job.

  • Scott M. Hutchinson

    Jim, your post is most timely, as I just read your post after I got off a phone with a potential client. I ran too long and when I became aware of the time the conversation shifted to a business transaction because I became focused on the time and not the person I was speaking too. While I was doing this I was catching myself and trying to shift back to being humanistic with her because I was intuitively aware that I had shifted to a business transaction frame. Balancing time and efficiency but at the same time maintaining the conversation in a humanistic frame for the client definitely gives the best feeling and take away for both the client and me. Often this can be challenging when a client or potential client has many questions. It’s definitely worth keeping awareness of this concept with clients and potential clients and practicing to achieve that balance.

    • Jim Dwyer

      When I catch myself finding something other than the phone call I’m on more important, I sometimes have to close my eyes or turn away from my computer screen or tell myself to focus. I’ve been working on not multitasking lately because it contributes to me not staying focused in a conversation – be it in person or on the phone. I also find that it’s easier for me to drift in a conversation with people I work with- which is doubly bad.

      It requires awareness and discipline to honor those we are in a conversation with. Thank you for your comment. I greatly appreciate hearing you thoughts, ideas and struggles.

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