NBH009: Quality Time for Lawyers

We all want quality time, don't we? This phrase “quality time” has been over-used. We don't even know what it means anymore. We use it all the time. We say we don't have it. We say we want it. We say we don't get it. Is there time that's not quality? I think about quality time and wonder - is there time that's not quality, that's un-quality? Anyway, I think time is just time. Or is it? As a lawyer, time is obviously very important. And that is what we talk about in each of these episodes, and we know what it feels like to waste time, to lose time. And then we also know what it feels like to be productive.

We know what it feels like to maximize our time. We probably want more of that. But we know what it feels like. We get a glimpse of it now and again. In the famous book, The Five Love Languages - if you haven't heard of it - there are five languages that we all speak about how to give and receive love. And the context of the book is for a romantic relationship – with a spouse or loved ones. And we have different ways that we express love and that we receive love. And to know your other’s, and your own, love language can help for a better relationship and to get the love and the attention you desire.

And “quality time” is one of the five love languages. And this fascinates me because I think it's so important, and just to put it that way is so powerful. You can show love for someone just by spending quality time with them - which is what you want to do anyway, right? And what's what they want. It's what we all want. Because we have this idea we don't have enough time. So when there is time, it's glorious and we just feel so connected and loved. And so quality time in this context of the Five Love Languages is about spending time with the person, focusing on the person, and listening to them.

When you are receiving quality time, you just feel like you're paid attention to. You feel like the person is making time for you, and is showing up. So that is quality time in that context. This is without distractions. You find you're centered when you have quality time. You're really able to listen; you're able to get to know this other person in that moment. So what about using this concept as a lawyer with your clients, for example?

As lawyers, quality time with our clients can be elusive. There's so much going on. We want to spend time with our clients, we really do. But we don't have time. Meaning, do we want to either charge them for the time or give them free time? When - we could be working on the legal aspects, the more professional services aspect of the relationship as opposed to the connection. These are related, of course, but I understand (and you will understand) that sometimes the best thing you can do for a client is to do some research, to file something, to litigate, to strategize, to actually work on the legal matter. Instead of, yet again, listening to your client who is going through a major conflict. That's why the client is working with you. Instead of listening to that, again, you want to work on this case. That's what we're here for. It's a stressful time for the client. They're hyper-focused on their problem. And so they want to talk to you about it many times because they do not have anyone else to talk to. And we have this wonderful attorney-client relationship where everything's confidential. And we have this counselor role, which we as lawyers think is extra, but it is actually our role. We are supposed to be listening to our clients. This is an ethical duty. It's a responsibility and an honor. And that's how we serve clients. And hearing the same thing over and over is also maybe not the most productive way to spend our time.

Recently, I received an emergency call from a client. I have some legacy cases in my law practice (legacy meaning I am winding them down) and this was truly an emergency - she needed legal advice. And it was really interesting how she started the call. She's said, “I have something to tell you. You're my lawyer. Please listen to what I have to say and listen to all of it.” I answered, “Okay.” And I did. And after she was finished, I asked her some questions.

I clearly told her what she needed to do. And then she did slip back into the spiral of what happened. And I said, “Well, you told me what happened, and this is what you need to do.” And she went to do it, and I talked to her later in the day. I had told her, “You can call me back after you do those things.” And when she called me back, she had done the things and she was sounding more confident, and she thanked me. She said, “Thank you. You're such a great person. You listened to me and you told me directly what to do. You cut through all the drama.”

I'm getting some good feedback. We might be onto something! And this to me was quality time. This was me focusing on her so she can feel heard, so she can get that need met, so she can move on. Because, yes, when we're going through a crisis we need to feel connected to somebody who is listening to us, who cares about us. And as a lawyer, we have that ability and it doesn't have to mean overstepping boundaries, doing too much, going too far with clients emotionally. It just means to listen, to actually listen, to what they're going through, and experience through them how they see the situation. And then using that information to do our job - which is to give advice, which is to find solutions, strategize. There may not be anything you can do, and so calmly say that and feel confident. Or say that you need to do something, or have them do something. Give some next steps, some action steps, instead of just listening and not doing anything about it.

Are you listening to your clients? Are you really listening? Are you really present? Are you taking the time to do that? I think that often we are listening in the beginning of a case. And that's why they hire us. And we're good at that. But are we doing that in an ongoing way where clients feel their needs are met, and we feel the time spent is worth it? Because, in that transmission, in that communication, we are learning more about the client and how the client functions. We are learning what's important to the client, which will help us in every aspect of the case. Because often we're not so connected with the client because we think, “Okay, I'm just going to put that over there. And I'm going to do this here.” And then when we try to merge those two things, the work we've been doing and this human being, often there's stress there.

The client didn't respond the way we thought; the client’s not happy with the result we got. But they told us this. So this is quality time that we can spend with clients, and you have to just figure out what that is and how that works and how it's cost-effective and time-effective. That is an investment in both ourselves and the relationship, and being a lawyer and furthering our goals. So are you listening? Are you responding in an effective manner? And if you're not, maybe that's causing you to lose some time, maybe you're wasting time with how you're spending the time with the client, and then there’s the fallout. Because if you don't really listen to somebody, you didn't really do anything at that time, and then also worrying about that communication, that client stress, and not focused on what needs to be done.

So how can we have more quality time with others, especially clients? How about striving to make all time quality? Yes. So let's not settle. Let's not just go through the motions in life. So many of us are just kind of halfway showing up and kind of doing what we need to do, and then gearing up for that next distraction, which is also taking us away from ourselves. And over time this takes its toll and it leads to a lot of health issues, mental health issues, disconnection with our own families, with ourselves. It’s just a downward spiral. What about really prioritizing, and being engaged with whatever you're doing?

If you're not, notice it. And of course there are going to be times, lots of times, when we may not like what we're doing. But you don't have to like it, just be engaged with it. Just be fascinated. Be curious. Think, “I am doing this thing, or I am having this interaction.” Just be there and experience what it is. That will shift the whole paradigm and shift the quality of your work and the quality of the time. Another part of that is to notice when your time is not quality, just notice. You may think, “That wasn't the greatest.”

Okay, next time you can do better and let it go. And ultimately, this is not just about what's happening in the external world with clients, with the legal system, with everything out there. It is about prioritizing quality time within ourselves.

Are we valuing what we're doing - our role, our work, our life - as much as it deserves? Because if we don't value it, we just show up and it is not quality, it's not important, it won't be. It's creating that reality. So, what I would like to leave you with is: notice how you're spending your time; notice if it's quality. Notice if you can bring in more quality time, or bring in that spirit to the time that you are spending, engaging with everything - with your clients, with your work, with your life. Bring more quality time to connect with everyone around you, and with the law, and with yourself.

Thank you to our sponsor for this episode and blog post: Ruttle Law, located in Torrance, CA, helps employers, employees, and their families navigate the complex world of immigration law. They assist clients with obtaining work visas, green cards, and citizenship in a variety of industries including technology, manufacturing, fine arts, athletics, and entertainment. Ruttle Law can be reached at 866-264-2975 or https://www.ruttlelaw.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: https://letsmeet.io/ritugoswamyesq/consultation

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