Listen (a rant)
Can I be candid with you a moment; I need you to listen carefully.
No? I will anyway. You need it!
You are a poor listener.
I will never in a million light years understand why, when someone calls my office for the first time in search of answers to their Family Court problems, they don’t let me get a word in edgewise!
What is up with that?
It happens all. the. time. And frankly it is super irritating.
You have a problem. If you are contacting an attorney chances are that your problem is stressful and somewhat complex. I get it.
But lately I have almost literally had to elbow and fight my way into a “conversation” just to get a better hold of what the hell is going on.
I am interrupted, spoken over, ignored, put on hold, ignored again, and my questions (when I can get them out) are almost never answered. Certainly never answered completely.
I am trying to help you! Yes, you!
Why do people do this?
If I called a mechanic and the mechanic asked me if I drive a Volkswagen I would not expound upon the ups and downs of my sex life, my grocery list, and my concerns for my neighbor Katie who has opened a kitty hostel.
We know you are stressed. Because you are stressed we suggest deep breaths. Maybe less screaming and goat murdering would do the trick?
Chances are, your attorney cannot solve your problem until he or she has all the facts (at least the ones you are willing to share with us at the initial phone call). We already know the law, and we already know how your judge is going to interpret that law. What we need are the facts. We need to know from you WTF happened, when, what you want and why.
As an aside, I have found that almost no one can answer why they want what they want … just an observation.
Perhaps because you are under such pressure you tend to monopolize the conversation. Which is fine right until it isn’t. I know what questions to ask. I hear what is not being said. The first few meetings or phone calls between us should be a back and forth, like a tennis match. It is not a soliloquy.
I blame the ubiquity of text and email for this also. The art of conversation is dead. It seems more and more that people are not interested or even able to truly listen anymore. They are distracted, irritable and want only to get their talking points out.
Admit this to yourself. When someone is talking to you, especially on the phone, you are thinking about what you are going to eat next or what you are going to say next.
Most of the time most people treat a phone call as just an opportunity to vomit up the conversation they had been having in their heads. With themselves. I had no real role in that discussion.
I had a particularly frustrating phone call with a potential client this morning who was only interested in hearing herself speak.
This can be cathartic. But if you truly only want to hear sounds coming out of your face hole consider counseling, calling your sister, or adopting a pigeon.
Sorry if I am being patronizing but holy hell some of you need an intervention.
There are lots of lonely pigeons who will listen to your life story for (literally) bread crumbs.
I am fully aware I sound like an old cranky Clint Eastwood here telling you to get off my lawn, but please understand that if I am going to be able to help you in any way I need to vet massive amounts of information from you, and the pace of the day demands I do that in less than three hours. I sometimes have to pee.
A conversational style helps you. Rather it helps your attorney help you. And that is why you called in the first place! It’s not as if anyone calls an attorney on a beautiful day just to chew the fat. Let’s face it – we are social lepers. No one wants to hear from us, especially those who most need our advice.
Please, please understand – and don’t take this the wrong way – your issue, whatever it is, is not unique. YOU are unique. Your children are unique. But the problems you are facing and may face in the coming months have happened to thousands of other parents, kids, and couples in thousands of Family Court cases.
This is a good thing! This is actually a great and wondrous thing.
This means that if the attorney you have chosen to call has very likely dealt with your exact issue before. Maybe twice that every morning!
Do not assume that your attorney needs every detail of your case that very moment. If you call a criminal defense attorney because you, say, stabbed the person in front of you at the Sonic drive-thru for taking too damn long (he was probably talking too much!), you do not need to tell them what the zodiac sign of the cashier was, or whether she had fake eyelashes. We know she had fake lashes. That is incidental. It is beside the point.
Try, try to stick to the who, what, where, why, when of it all. Save the astrology considerations for closer to the trial date.
And let this be an early warning to you also. Because if it seems crass or callous that an attorney may lack the time, patience, and resources to hear the Tolstoy version of your problem, just you wait to see how impatient, precise and discerning your judge will be when it comes time to argue your case. Judges by nature do not give freely of their time. They guard their calendar.
Take the novel version of your story and boil it down to an index card before contacting your friendly neighborhood Family Law attorney. Because that attorney is going to need to boil your index card down to a post-it to make it palatable and effective for the judicial process.
I swear, some of you would go to a concert and take a nap.
Do a young attorney with a cranky old man inside a big favor. Listen, respond, breathe and talk. Do not be so afraid of the occasional silence.
“We have two ears and one mouth, so we should listen more than we say.” -Zeno