Clients! – I think this is a favorite topic for lawyers, and especially relating to time and time management. Wouldn’t we have more time if it weren’t for those clients demanding it from us? It seems like no matter how much time we give, they just take, take, take. Does this sound familiar?
There’s so much information out there about: managing client expectations, vicarious trauma for the lawyer, handling difficult clients, having clients trigger you, and how to create boundaries. And of course, our role as lawyer means that we bring into our lives (and into our time) people, and situations, that are high conflict. That’s what we do, right? There’s no way around that. I’m not pretending that. We are called to serve the clients pain. We’re healers through the law, right?
However, we just want to help them. We don’t have time for these extra questions, handholding, all of the stuff. And maybe we did it earlier, but we don’t want to do it now. Or maybe when we do it, we feel resentful because they’re not appreciating it and they want more. There’s a little bit of tension there. And I’m being serious; we have so much to do as lawyers. Why can’t the client just let us do our job? If they could understand that the time we spend on the case will be better served doing legal work, maybe then they wouldn’t require as much time. And this is whether you bill by the hour, whether you do flat rate – it is kind of the same thing. Because you don’t want to be billing for all this other time, when you could be billing for legal work.
So it took me a long time to understand and learn this. And this is a universal lesson, as is everything. But clients, and all people (all people in our lives), will take the time that they take. Does that make sense? So think about this concept of taking time. We say it all the time: “this case takes time”; “that person took time”; “they’re taking my time”. And have you ever thought about what we’re really saying? We’re saying that time is being taken from us. You see, it’s like putting us in the victim role. We’re saying that maybe someone’s stealing from us – something that we have, and now it’s being taken away. And then we’re getting back to that whole sense of scarcity of not having enough. And the switch I want to make for you, hopefully, or the shift that I want to introduce you to, is that it’s not that time is being taken. It’s that we’re willing participants and giving it – no one can take it.
No one can really take anything, but especially time. And so if we are letting things, situations, people steal from us, that means we’re unable to hold our own space and time. And I’m going to admit that this has been a challenge for me most of my life, and I think it is for a lot of people. How do we hold our own space and time? And we have all these messages about how that’s not okay, how that may be harsh or somehow creating separation. But it’s really not; it’s creating connection. Because if we are very clear about our own space and time – and we don’t give in so people just take – there’s more of an equal relationship. People will learn, by our example, how to hold their own space and time, and will understand this give and take.
I understand this is a hard pill to swallow. And it’s complicated because we absolutely have a duty to our clients. And, ethically (definitely), we have to put in the time for our clients. Just consider that if we take responsibility for how much others take and, and do it more from a place of giving, the energy shifts for us. And then we stand in our own time and create awareness about what we do. And then you can be very aware about what’s happening from the beginning, and not get sucked in and then later be upset about it and waste time there.
Instead, we think, “I got myself into this, this is going to take this much time, this is going to affect my bottom line.” When you accept it and do the work, it is way more efficient. So when we create this awareness, and we have something to work with, we save the time that we would have wasted by complaining, blaming outside things. And really it’s about us. And it is highly likely that it is a pattern that we’ve been repeating for a long time and we might want to explore that. But even if I don’t do anything other than be aware of it and think “I feel like this person is taking from me”, I can decide whether that’s okay with me.
I can decide whether I’ll finish this case and not take another case like it, or how I’m going to handle that same feeling in my gut when that kind of client comes into my office. Am I going to take this/that case? What kind of boundaries am I going to set in the beginning? How am I going to treat myself? – which ultimately will affect how I treat my clients and how they treat me. So just changing our attitude and making it more centered (we’re more in our center and taking responsibility), we just get to work. It’s less drama, nobody’s taking – because the clients will take as much time as they take. It’s about managing yourself, managing what perspective you have, what energy, how you are coming to relating to clients and others who you feel are taking from you.
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