He who would distinguish the true from the false must have an adequate idea of what is true and false. — Baruch Spinoza, Ethics
When Basil Valentine, Esq. met me, a potential new client, for the first time, he was taking a chance. Although I knew I had a lawsuit and knew I was sane, sober and truthful, Basil Valentine didn’t know anything about me. He had less than an hour to evaluate my case, i.e., evaluate me.
How did he see me for the first time? I dressed appropriately, put on a little make-up. Presented myself as an intelligent, calm, patient grown-up. With a broken foot.
Maybe he was reassured when I provided all the details in a non-histrionic, tersely written couple of pages and photos. But maybe it suggested that I was a little too experienced in being a plaintiff.
Note:I’m sure it’s why lawyers prefer recommendations from other lawyers: the client arrives pre-approved, OK’d by a secret kind of eLawyerHarmony.com. She’s not a blind date with a metaphoric or actual hatchet hidden in her designer bag.
I told Basil Valentine about my lawsuit against the Skush-O’Briens because I assumed he’d do a search on me, and I wanted to bring it to his attention first so that he’d have no reason to be suspicious that I was withholding important information. I believe in telling a lawyer everything that might be relevant to my situation; let him determine whether it’s relevant or not.
Note:It’s good to give a lawyer information, i.e., the opportunity to power up his determinations about the case. A chance to show off. By handing the lawyer such sops, I’ve suggested that he’s alpha wolf and I’m submissive beta wolf. However actively you wind up managing your case, your lawyer must always see himself as in control. As far as the legal process is concerned, he is. (I use the masculine pronoun deliberately.)
When Basil Valentine asked me to relate my foot story verbally and questioned me about the photographs, I did not get testy:I knew he was confirming, first, that there was indeed a lawsuit and, second, that my verbal narrative matched my written one in all details. (As I’ve said, the defendants’ lawyers would ask me these details many times, probing for inconsistencies, holes. Lies. Basil was testing me in advance.)
Basil Valentine might have evaluated the story and the evidence I’d provided and either then or later informed me that, in his opinion, I did not have a lawsuit his firm would take on, either because there was no clear liability, no “good,” i.e., financially beneficial, injury (he would have explained what he meant by this), or because he’d figured out I was a nut. (He’d come up with some euphemistic excuse and wish me well [an expression I’ve come to loathe]: “We wish you well in your pursuit[s]…”)
If Basil V. had determined I didn’t have a lawsuit, I would have accepted his judgment and crutched my way home. I’ll tell you more about this later.
- When you first meet with a lawyer, understand that he doesn’t know you and will be asking questions that may seem obvious. Don’t get irritated; he’s doing his job and giving you some early prep for your deposition.
- Don’t try to look wan and hysterical; to a lawyer it’s off-putting. Leave the dramatics to the lawyer. That’s their sub-profession. If you’re a wreck before you leave your house, take a tranquilizer with the hand you’re not using to put on make-up.
- Give the lawyer meat to chew on, i.e., more information than he’ll probably want. It’ll make him feel good to make decisions about what’s legally significant and what’s not.