Advocates and Counselors
Lawyers are known as Advocates and Counselors. The advocate is a familiar figure due to popular culture or a visit to the court house. The advocate is the one zealously representing their client’s position in a courtroom. Advocates research the law and develop facts to support their client’s point of view, then apply those facts to the law, with the goal of helping their client solve a problem.
The lawyer as counselor is less obvious. The counselors work takes place over the phone or in an office and rarely in the public eye. In fact, those clients who know their lawyer as a counselor often give them that name because the counselor’s thought out well reasoned legal advice has helped the client avoid a difficult situation.
Most of a lawyer’s job is as a counselor and not an advocate. Like a sport’s team, most of the hard work is at practice and not on the field of play in front of the fans. Counseling is the ounce of prevention to the advocate’s pound of cure. The slightest course correction early can help the ship miss the iceberg. To do so, however, requires the client, as the captain, to recognize his peril early and ask his navigator about a sight course correction.
As a navigator the lawyer as counselor can see things more clearly. First, we are detached from the situation so we can see things more objectively. Second, we have likely seen the same situation before. Situations that seem mysterious to our clients often appear clear to us. This is not because lawyers are smarter or have better insight. It’s simply because the experienced lawyer has been down this path before and the pitfalls are familiar. We are legal sherpas and have been to the summit a thousand times. Sure we can take you to the top of the mountain, we even know the easiest path. If you want to go it alone we can tell you where the Yeti is, where an avalanche may get you and when the snows will be deepest.
Regrettably, it is rare for a client to call and say “everything is going great just wanted to tell you I’m having a great day.” Unfortunately, the call usually starts with, “Can my employer/the cops/my ex-wife/husband/neighbor do that?” The short answer is usually “Well yes, since they did it, but I think what you really want to know is was it legal? Why don’t you tell me what happened.”
We can’t always give the client the answer they want but we can always give them the answer they need. Sometimes just knowing how something works or why the bank requires so many documents or what an easement or usufruct is can be very helpful. We are in the business of providing options. A good counselor will be able to discuss the pros and cons of different approaches to a problem. There is always more than on way to climb a tree.
At other times the explanation of how the law will apply to a situation can lead to the preparation of a document or raft of documents. Finally, the conversation can lead to a discussion of legal rights and the enforcement of same. In short, trial. Most of a lawyers day-to-day work is not in trial, despite what popular culture would have you think. While it is the most dramatic and compelling part of what a lawyer does it is a very small percentage of a lawyer’s time.
Sometimes, however, there is no alternative to solving a client’s problem other than through litigation. A good lawyer will make sure to discuss and explain the pros and cons of litigation and give the client all of the information they need to be make an informed decision and then do their best to make sure the client’s wishes are carried out to the best of their ability. A good lawyer will counsel his client on the reality of trial. Trial can be kabuki theater and/or a roller coaster with ups, downs and nerve wracking unexpected twists and turns. A good lawyer will do their best to anticipate same but there’s no sure thing in a trial.
There are so many reasons people may be stressed out when facing a legal challenge. It’s a mysterious process and not typical experience for most. Sometimes, it’s just as simple as being heard – if not in court, then at least by someone who can empathize with you, make you feel better and give you unvarnished advice.