Lawyers: The Many Hats We Wear

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It’s amazing how I rushed into law school with no real idea what I would be doing every day of my working life. I had an inkling I would be on the litigation side of things (though I’m not even sure I knew what the word “litigation” meant). Like anyone whose imagination was nourished on a steady diet of television, I thought being a lawyer meant my days would be spent emasculating evil, dishonest witnesses in a packed, captivated courtroom. That is, when I wasn’t driving my Porsche . . . or playing golf . . . or having a power lunch at the Club . . . or whatever.

Imagine my surprise when I graduated, passed the bar and reality set in! In truth, I figured out long before graduation that most days I would be the one getting emasculated, chained to a desk, eating my power lunch at the downtown YMCA. (Don’t laugh. . . the YMCA is a Club, isn’t it?)

What’s interesting, though, is not that those golden trial-lawyer-as-cross-exam-Ninja moments are so few and far between, but rather how varied my job description can actually be from day-to-day. While I do spend the majority of my working hours litigating (i.e., complaining, pleading, advising, calendaring, moving, appearing, arguing, deposing, drafting, researching, responding, conferencing, serving, trying, introducing, direct examining, cross-examining, re-direct examining, re-cross examining, filing, noticing, negotiating, appealing, taxing, counseling, averring, answering, BILLING, reviewing, revising, disclosing, amending, second-amending, designating, counter-designating, etc.), it is surprising how much of my working day I actually spend doing none of these things.

What else do I do? It depends on the client. But in some ways I’ve come to think of it as a service as important (if less lucrative) as any of the -ing activities I listed above: I act as a Resource to my clients. More specifically, as a lawyer I gain unparalleled backstage access into my client’s “kitchen” (not just restaurant clients, either). And it turns out that what they often need is not a hired gun to fight legal battles, but rather an objective sounding board or a referral source. This part of the job is particularly rewarding with new or emerging companies because I’m bringing value by my involvement that a “hired gun” litigator just can’t bring. The more intimately I get to know a client’s business, the more interesting all aspects of my job become.

I take great care when I refer clients or contacts to other professionals. Every referral reflects ultimately on me, and I feel I have a stake in the outcome. So, while I might explore and involve myself in a variety of networks for the specific purpose of making contacts and business referral sources, I take pride that any decision I make to connect a client or contact with a professional is informed by the kind of cold, objective judgment I would use in selecting a doctor to treat me or my family.

When we take our role as a resource to our clients as seriously as we take the role of practicing lawyer we create the possibility of going past a mere attorney-client relationship. We partner. We jointly venture. We approach the most coveted role any lawyer can ever hope for: the Trusted Advisor.

About Alex Craigie

I am an AV-Preeminent rated trial lawyer. My practice focuses on helping companies throughout Southern California resolve employment and business disputes. The words in this blog are mine alone, and do not reflect the views of the Dykema law firm or its clients. Also, these words are not intended to constitute legal advice, and reading or commenting on this blog does not create attorney-client relationship. Reach me at acraigie@dykema.com. View all posts by Alex Craigie

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