The end of a case is often emotional for a lawyer
I hand over settlement cheques on a regular basis.
It is always a long haul. I am often hired within weeks or months of an injury, and it regularly takes several years before all treatment options have been exhausted, medical specialists have had their say, and evidence has been built up to the extent that ICBC will pay fair dollars.
When injured victims come to me for an initial consultation, I tell them that their choice of lawyer is a very important decision. One of the reasons I give is that it is a long term relationship.
Through extensive interviewing, I get to know my clients very well. In a non-sexual sense, I get to know them on a very intimate level.
A recommendation I make to every one of those people coming to me for an initial consultation is that they interview other lawyers as well. I use the analogy that it is unwise to marry the first guy or girl who comes along without first getting an idea of what else is out there.
I am often the first lawyer they have ever met.
As highly recommended as a lawyer may be, you will be in for a rough ride if you don’t get along with him or her. There are many excellent lawyers, and they come in a wide variety of ages, styles and personalities.
When I am hired early on, I am with the client through all the phases, each of which can be quite emotional. There is the optimistic treatment phase when symptoms are improving, the frustrated and depressed stage after the improvement stops, and finally the acceptance stage when they come to the realization that a lifetime of chronic pain is their new reality.
I do my very best to make the claim process as stress free as possible, but of course I cannot eliminate the stress completely. The further along the litigation path we go, the more emotionally taxing it becomes as well.
Because I am involved in this very emotional journey, I become very close to most of my clients.
Settlement causes the relationship to end abruptly.
Theoretically, settlement of a case should be a happy occasion.
In reality, there is not much for my clients to be happy about.
Shouldn’t they be happy about the settlement cheque? My clients regularly tell me that they would give back every cent if it would mean that the pain would go away.
Shouldn’t they be happy that the claim process has ended? Think about it. The only target of their desperate frustration from a needless injury has been taken away. Along with it goes their partner in the pursuit of justice: their lawyer.
It is very different for the lawyer. I get a whole lot of job satisfaction from achieving justice for my clients. I also finally get paid for spending up to 4 or 5 years working on a case.
Those upsides for me, though, are tempered by the recognition I have come to have about what a settlement really means, and more importantly doesn’t mean, for my clients.
Then there’s the stark feeling of loss I feel when my clients walk out of my office for the last time.
I wonder if they have a clue how I feel. I wonder if they have a clue that I don’t just put their file in a box after the case is over – that I have to grieve the abrupt endings of these relationships.
I appreciate your candor. I never thought of it that way. I just received an ICBC settlement cheque today – out of sheer frustration and financial desperation, I forced my lawyer to “just settle quickly” for far less than it should have been, but I wanted the whole thing over and I got kind of pushy about it toward the end. This should be a happy day, but it’s not, really, because as I was walking out I realized that I’m still in pain and always will be. I did notice that my lawyer seemed a little out of sorts too. I know he wanted more – for both of us. We forget that other people are human and have feelings in an emotionally charged situation like this, and it’s nice that you posted this to show what it’s like from the other side. I think I’ll send my lawyer a “thank you” note – he put up with a lot of crap from me!