I grew up in a small town in Iowa. I did not know of many lawyers—only one family friend. My view of lawyers then was that, especially in a small town, a lawyer was the person you went to when you had trouble, a valued counselor, a friend, who would know what to do (if anybody would).
Have times changed?
After 28 years in my own law practice, I can honestly say that my impression of lawyers is the same as it was when I was growing up. Oh sure–lawyers are joked about a lot, mainly because no one ever really wants to be in a position to need one. Think about that. A lawyer is someone you go to for help when something has gone wrong (car accident, business deal gone bad, someone you know arrested, etc…). A “necessary evil”. But in bad moments, a valued counselor, to get you the help you need.
Jerry Seinfeld said:
“What are lawyers, really? To me a lawyer is basically the person that knows the rules. We’re all throwing the dice, playing the game, moving our pieces around the board, but if there’s a problem, the lawyer is the only person who has read the inside of the top of the box.”
A lawyer gives you the advice you need—regardless of whether you like it or want to hear it. That is what a “professional” does.
I feel terrible when someone comes to me, having been injured in a crash but, believing they can handle it on their own because “the adjuster seemed so friendly at first”, and they have said things they should not have and waited too long to do the things that were needed early. This is the precise reason that we offer everyone a “free consultation”. It costs nothing, so why not take some time, get information and get educated, then decide? Knowing what to say/do and knowing what not to say/do can either make or ruin your case, because most people do not “know the rules”. Not sure? Set an appointment, or call or email me. You have nothing to lose—but everything to gain, in taking that first step.
Lawyers do not exist to be your “friend”. Lawyers exist to help when there is trouble. But, depending on the kind of trouble (car accident, etc..), your lawyer should be compassionate, and certainly “friendly”.
A friend responds when you call. A friend returns your calls. A friend explains things. A friend stays by you, to help when and how they can.
While your lawyer is there to be your counselor first, a lawyer should also be a friend in need. You should feel that your lawyer is the type of person you can trust and has your best interests at hand. That includes having to sometimes tell you things that you do not like—if in your best interest.
Remember, we are lawyers, not magicians. We cannot make problems simply disappear. We can only work to try to help turn a bad situation into the best outcome for you.
That was how I viewed the role of the small town lawyer when I was growing up.
And, after 28 years in practicing law, it is how I see it today.
Christopher J. Zachar