There a fine line between a lawyer expressing empathy for a client and helping them through a really tough situation, and a lawyer becoming too friendly during the course of a consultation in an effort to win a client's business. There is little question in my mind that the decision as to whether a criminal defense attorney should be a friend or “merely” an empathetic, objective advisor should be settled in favor of the objective and empathetic advisor.
Clients come to meet with me because they're facing overwhelming debt and with that comes a lot of baggage including guilt, shame, embarrassment, and a deep sense of failure. If I can't empathize with their troubles and create a safe space for them to share their story, I can't gain their trust, which is critical for having a healthy attorney-client relationship.
At the initial client meeting, we want to create emotional attunement — the ability to sense what the client is feeling and respond appropriately. I've had so many clients thank me at the end of the consultation for simply listening to them, making them feel heard, and cared for.
Jenna Cho, 5 Mistakes To Avoid At Client Intake.
The problem with lawyers that attempt to become friends with their clients at the initial meeting is simple: it's really, really hard to give difficult advice to our friends. Your criminal defense attorney needs to be able to talk candidly to you about what you should do with your case.
There is a reason why I frequently refer friends and family seeking criminal defense services to other attorneys. There might be a time when I need to have difficult conversations with them during the course of the representation, and I do not want that conversation to be impeded by our relationship.
So, when you are evaluating criminal defense attorneys in Georgia, do you best to make an objective decision, not one based on the efforts of a lawyer to be perceived as your friend.
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