I used to dish out info about the rules of law to my client. I used to tell a general story and if a client told me something personal, I didn’t acknowledge it because I didn’t know how to. I remember a client who told me about te way a loved one had died: very sudden that person collapsed to never stand up again. She told me how shocked she was when it happened, how shocked she still was at that moment, 4 months since it had happend. I was afraid to show that that personal story affected me so I wore a mask. I was good in what I thought my job entailed: explaning the rules of law in laymens terms. Did I enjoy my job? Hell no. And I had to land myself in a burn-out to realise I wasn’t having fun anymore.
To be the change I want to see in the legal world. What does that mean? I talk about personal development, I talk about facing your fears and following your gut instincts and all that sounds vague, weird and not very down to earth. People ask me why I think it is so important to focus on the person as a whole instead of just on their knowledge and ‘hard skills’ as a legal professional.
I’ll tell you why: because people work with people. When I advise my clients about their last will, their marriage and/or estate, they want to talk to me as a person. They don’t want to talk to a robot that blurts out the rules of law. Clients want to hear how a particular rule of law applies to their own personal situation and not how it might maybe somehow apply to their neighbour or to average Joe.
To be able to advise your clients -the human beings on the other side of the table- you have to be able to make a connection, to make them feel they and their personal information is safe with you.
I started sharing my story with my clients. Often clients tell me they are scared of conflicts within their family over money. That is the one thing every client comes to me for: to help avoid those conflicts. Then I share my story about the fights over money in my family to the extend that there has been no contact whatsoever for many years between some members of my family. Sharing my story takes away the shame to talk about (the fear of) family arguments. That is what I bring to the table: myself first and second my knowledge about the rules of law.