Here’s a fact: Clients come to you because they’re in discomfort and they want your help in relieving that discomfort.
In learning to meditate, teachers will first instruct students to “take their seat.” This instruction has more meaning in it than just the words directing one to sit down. It means settle into a solid posture from the base of the spine, through to the top of the head where you can hold be still for a long period of time, even in discomfort; it means to root into the ground and allow an awareness of the support gravity and the earth provide.
From this place, combined with deep, meaningful breathing, we have access to resources beyond ourselves, mind space that is more expansive and present than when we are just going about our day.
If we apply this concept to taking our “seat” as lawyers, we can bring something new to our clients—a sense of clarity they thirst for. We can offer a truly transformative experience by entraining our clients to this place of connectedness and knowingness.
“But I’m a lawyer, not a guru!” you say. True. “My clients want my legal advice, they don’t care about emotions or feelings.” False.
Back to that first statement of fact–Clients come to you because they’re in discomfort and they want your help in relieving the discomfort. That’s a feeling. An inner reality we all share. Our inner world always will have some component of feeling, even in the face of factual, actual issues. At the core of every problem is discomfort.
What kind of discomfort are your clients in? That’s actually for you to find out face to face. Each client’s discomfort will have a unique flavor or pattern. Contrary to what you probably believe, there is a higher use of your time and energy than just rendering legal advice—particularly if your client doesn’t take your legal advice because they don’t feel you’ve heard them. The higher use of your time is your presence and attendance.
Here are some thoughts on how you can begin to take your seat and become the advisor and counselor your clients are looking for:
Don’t just do something, sit there. A friend of mine who is a hospice physician once told me that the one of the most powerful things we can to do serve is to just be present. As lawyers, we believe that our time is the only valuable commodity we have, and that we always have to be doing something. But being attentive to what is happening for our clients may be the highest and best use of our time. Challenge yourself to spend more time simply attending to your client. Don’t try to change them or convince them of anything. Have confidence that if there is a good match between you, they’ll hire you. Especially if they know they’re heard. And there’s no better way to hear than to simply be quiet and sit there.
Be aware of your inner landscape. Before you sit down to a meeting, check in with yourself. How are you feeling? What emotions are present in your body and where do you feel them? A common feeling for lawyers is anxiety before a meeting. I’ve seen some lawyers deal with difficult feelings by numbing, dissociating, trying to be “above it all,” an inner landscape that leaves clients feeling kind of empty and untouched. Instead, let yourself feel your feelings, thank their guidance, and choosing to be connected both to your own feelings and allowing your clients to touch your heart.
Know who’s leading. I just said that just being present with your client is a very powerful use of your energy. But being present doesn’t mean that you’re not leading. You are by sitting in your seat and attending to your client in a way they may not have experienced (especially from an attorney) before, you are opening up a superhighway of communication. You are really hearing their inner experience. From this place of deeper insight you can provide far more meaningful advice to them.
Breathe. Clients do need to access your legal knowledge to grasp things they do not yet know. You may find yourself trying to think around your client, which can cause you to stop breathing, cut off the oxygen supply to your brain and give you a befuddled feeling. Notice the quality of your own breath. Is it shallow and anxious or deep and relaxed? Or somewhere in between? A tip–wear clothes that you can let your belly out fully (without sucking in your gut too much) so you can breathe into a state of calmness, which leads to clarity.
Stay in the moment and allow confusion. Confusion is actually a very powerful state of mind. It’s out of confusion that clarity arises. It’s the mind’s working things out and it just not being quite done yet. Keep notes of your client’s confused thoughts as they talk. You will naturally try to clarify their confusion, but try to pause yourself if you feel like on jumping in as they talk. There will be time enough to address all their concerns head on. Your first job is to listen—and really hear what they’re saying on multiple levels—psychological, emotional, intellectual, even spiritual. If you get caught or hooked by your own confusion, your client will entrain to your feeling and they will leave your office in the same state of mind as when they walked in. You do not need to have all the answers now. You have the skills you need to get unconfused. Your confidence in that alone is all you need to help your client work out their own confusion.
As a lawyer, people project onto you that you have answers they need simply by virtue of your law license. They need you to lead them through whatever their issue is. You do that not just by applying your legal ninja skills but by mastering your own inner landscape. This is your leadership. This is what they want from you.
Give it to them.
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