This week in Things I Wish I Knew… Joleena Louis talks about the value of NOT knowing as a solo attorney and the trust such honesty inspires in her clients.
Over the past few months, I’ve spoken to many solos and we have all come to one conclusion: there are a lot of things that we just don’t know.
But is this acceptable to say to your client or even *gasp!* the Court?
My response: Absolutely!
I am a recovering people pleaser. There was a time in my life (mainly, my high school and college years) when I would naturally want to give people the answer I knew they wanted to hear.
This went against my better judgment.
It always ended badly for both me and the recipient. I leaned the hard way that people prefer the truth, even if its not what they want to hear.
As a solo attorney and a new business owner, it’s easy to fall into the trap of assuring your client that you can get them everything they want and that you know everything about every legal problem they could possibly have. You need the business and you fear that if you don’t know they might go to someone who does. However, if you lie and pretend you know when you really have no idea, you are putting your client, your license and your reputation at risk.
By saying that you don’t know, you are showing the client that honesty is a priority for you, and in most cases they will respect you more for such integrity. So far I have never lost a potential client by saying I don’t know. I let them know I will find out and get back to them as soon as possible with the answer.
While covering a case per diem, I had an instance where the judge asked me a question about the facts of the case that I (nor the client) knew the answer to. While the judge was not happy about it, he accepted my response and we moved on.
Most people are willing to wait a little longer for accurate information than to get a quick inaccurate response.
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Joleena Louis is a matrimonial and family law attorney at Joleena Louis Law, a ﬁrm she founded after leaving a boutique matrimonial ﬁrm in Brooklyn. Joleena is a client in Law Firm Suites’ start-up program in Downtown, New York. Her weekly blog series Things I Wish I Knew… explores her thought process and experiences in her transition from small law ﬁrm employee to successful solo practice entrepreneur.