NBH004: Problem-solving Revisited: Why we can’t fix it

I love solving problems. I often think that I should have been a engineer instead of a lawyer. And I also love people, and talking. So here we are. Turns out that people-problems are way more challenging than product-problems, right? People are complicated and unpredictable. And these people make laws. And there are other people who interpret the laws. So we have laws made and interpreted by people who are complicated and unpredictable. You see what I’m saying?

So as lawyer people (because we are also people) we navigate the legal system on behalf of our people clients. Are you with me? A client comes to you with a problem! Yippee, we love it. We love it because we love to solve problems. And they’re coming to you exactly when they have the problem; it’s awesome. And so, you the lawyer (or me the lawyer), an expert, want to solve the problem, of course! And what fun! We get to help people and businesses with their issues using the law, using tools that people may not have. It’s super wonderful to use our education, our knowledge, our abilities, our intellect, which enable us to serve others. So we get to learn how things work in this client’s life or in the life of this business. We get to learn where things broke down in how they were doing things or what conflict happened. And then we also get to learn – because we know that we don’t know everything and we have to figure it out – how to make things right.

And we solve the problem by fighting for what’s right for our client. Or do we? I don’t know about you. But for me, problem solving as a lawyer isn’t quite what I thought it would be. We are working in a limited structure, limited systems, limited way of seeking solutions. We definitely have lots of tools. But turns out, we can’t always solve a problem. Right? Because the problem may not be what the client thought it was. We have to, under our ethical obligations, serve the client, where they are, and the problem they are presenting with. And definitely, there’s usually something to do, something to solve, something to assist with.

And so when the problem may not be what the client thought it was, despite our herculean efforts (I am being dramatic), the problem still remains. And this is what we feel as lawyers – that we’ve done so much work, we got the client what they wanted, what we thought that they wanted, or what we had the capacity to do, and most of the time, honestly, beyond what we thought we could do. And that’s a pretty frustrating thing – that we went above and beyond, got above and beyond results, and the client’s like, “eh.”

There’s a new problem, or they thought they would feel better, and they don’t. And then the lawyer is just kind of left to the side. So, perhaps, given all this, perhaps problem solving, is not what we thought it was. And that’s what I wanted to talk about today. Perhaps our role of lawyer is not necessarily making problems go away. Perhaps our role is something different.

And so as lawyers, we can help our clients work through a problem, for sure. A problem is an indication that something is not working in the client’s life. And so we can help them work through it, given all our knowledge and expertise and tools. But it is not necessarily about solving it for them. We open doors; we bring access to justice; we give a voice to the disenfranchised; we use our power to empower others. And we solve problems by creating new paths to solutions. And I know that when I started changing my view of how I practice law, things really shifted for me and for my clients. And success, and results, and winning, and losing became a new paradigm. So as lawyers, we may not be able to fix things every time. But we’re definitely always leading the way to solutions for our clients.

Thank you to the sponsor for this podcast episode and blog post: Law Offices of Daniel Shanfield Immigration Defense PC, based in San Jose, CA. The firm fights for the rights of immigrants to obtain legal status, citizenship and fight deportation. The firm also collaborates with lawyers throughout the United States in protecting the interests of their immigrant clients, and provides expertise on criminal and immigration matters. Law Offices of Daniel Shanfield Immigration Defense PC can be reached at (888) 275-0047 and https://www.immigration-defense.com/.

To get your free copy of “The New Billable Hour” book and other resources, visit www.newbillablehour.com. If you are interested in working with Ritu to transform your relationship with your law practice, schedule a free consultation here: www.calendly.com/ritugo

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