Earning trust: A lawyer’s moment of truth

Peter Biagetti is senior litigator at prestigious Boston law firm. His client is developer who wants to sue his mother, partner in the family real estate business. Before the hearing Biagetti met the developer on the steps of the courthouse. The developer seemed to hesitate, his body language suggesting indecision, reluctance, and some kind of discomfort. Biagetti saw man who was wrestling with dozen issues that had to do with family pride, personal success, recognition and filial love.
He knew the lawsuit would resolve only one issue, and relatively minor one at that. Drawing on the common background he shared with his client, he decided to comment on what he saw. “I told him I found it hard to imagine how it must feel to go into litigation with his mother. I said I didn’t think it was something many sons could go through.”
The developer might have told the lawyer to mind his own business, and get on with his job. But he didn’t. He decided not to press the lawsuit. The point, say the writers in The Trusted Advisor, is another lawyer might not have sensed his client’s underlying concerns, been unwilling to forgo the revenues of potentially lucrative trial, or (most importantly of all) not felt enough affinity for him to speak up. “In this case the client drew back curtain and the lawyer was willing to look through the window.” This is how trusted adviser relationship often begins.
Not all of us will notice when an unusual opportunity has been revealed. But if we have listened well, observed accurately and spoken truthfully, clients may welcome the expansion of conversation.

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