In the past two months, my office has been deluged with clients who are experiencing difficulties which some may consider as controversial. The more I encounter these types of issues, the more I find what I thought I believed, supported, or had an opinion about, changes with the presentation of my client’s set of circumstances. So before I continue on with this rambling post, I would like to thank these clients for allowing me to grow and learn through our relationship.
But as these same clients challenge me, they also leave me facing a sleepless night. Everyone has skeletons – things that we don’t want others to know about ourselves. Sometimes we can handle those issues privately, but there are times when legal advice is not only needed but absolutely necessary, and thus, these sensitive topics must become public. By public, I mean these clients must come to an absolute stranger, me, and discuss issues that are uncomfortable and almost always embarrassing.
Back to the clients and my battle with insomnia: I have been told repeatedly by a fellow attorney that I shouldn’t take my client’s issues personally, but that’s easier said than done. When people come to me for help and advice on these issues, I am humbled by their trust, but am always surprised when they ask me to “judge” them. I can’t tell you how many clients here recently have asked me my personal opinion on their situation. I get questions like, “Do you think I am a bad person?” or “Do you think I am wrong for coming to you?” I don’t kid myself by thinking “wow they came to me.” But rather, I tell myself they came to me and they need someone so why not me.
Here’s the deal – I am the last one to pass judgment. I strive to be the one who passes solid legal advice, openly and honestly. The sleepless nights come when I begin to worry that these folks somehow believe that they are wrong for exercising their legal rights; rights given to them fully and freely by the United State Constitution, the Alabama Constitution and by the sole, but most important fact, they are people.
I worry about the little ones, the people who are without resources to fight to the finish – perhaps against an abuser who hires a “big gun” or “heavy hitter”. Sadly, resources – code for money – sometimes wins. Not always – but sometimes. It’s the “sometimes” that keeps me awake until the wee hours of the night. I worry that these people seeking an affirmation will give up the fight, if they mistakenly believe they don’t deserve to exercise their rights on these sensitive subjects, or that the other side who has a bigger purse will just win anyway. (Said many times by clients).
I won’t recommend action through the filing of unnecessary lawsuits or drafting meaningless agreements, if it isn’t going to solve the problem. But I will never recommend inaction to protect a right – ever.
So, no, you are not a bad person, nor are you wrong to come to me for advice. In fact, I admire you, because it takes a lot of guts to spill them. You have finally put trust into someone else. That’s a huge step and a responsibility that I don’t take lightly.
Now about those sleepless nights…I believe when they stop, so does my passion and creativity. So, I am choosing to sleep later…maybe tomorrow night, or the night after. But I promise I will get some sleep before we go to battle!
“Everyone has a right to peaceful coexistence, the basic personal freedoms, the alleviation of suffering, and the opportunity to lead a productive life…”– Jimmy Carter