Those of you who hunt have surely seen the logo for the gear with a large antler rack and the words Size Matters. I recently heard an E.D. advertisement claiming, as part of their product pitch, that Sex Matters. My variation on these themes, in mediation and litigation in general, is Attitude Matters.
As a practicing lawyer of 36 years, I have seen (as have most of you) the practice of law change dramatically. I’m not just referring to the decline in civility among lawyers, although that has been a huge shift. I’m referring to the business of law.
For of some you, business has never been better. You’re making more money than ever, and maybe even having more fun. However, most of us would say that the practice of law has become harder. Whether it’s the pressure from (and cost of) legal advertising, reduced case filings, stiffer competition for fewer cases, arbitration, or some combination of these, the practice of law is simply tougher these days — particularly for litigators.
Where’s The Thanks?
Clients seem less appreciative of the expense and energy we invest in doing our jobs well. Technology has made us accessible to them, like it or not, 24/7. They’re increasingly focused on getting more work at lower costs. Worse still, client loyalty is now practically non-existent; no matter what you may have done for them in the past, they’ll switch firms whenever they think they can save money for themselves and their businesses.
It’s Still Your Choice
All of which is why it’s easy to be cynical and pessimistic about where our profession is headed. I, on the other hand, want to encourage you that — in spite of everything — your attitude matters. One of my favorite quotes comes from Austrian neurologist / psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl: “The last of the human freedoms is to choose one’s attitude.”
Frankl’s wife, parents, and brother were all killed by the Hitler regime. He lived through Auschwitz, Dachau and other concentration camps. The Nazis stripped him of his family, his possessions, and his health. They took every freedom he had except one. They couldn’t force their way into his mind and take away his freedom to choose his attitude towards life and his circumstances.
Frankl chronicled his experience, and what he learned, in his book Man’s Search for Ultimate Meaning. I’m reading the book now for a second time. Frankl concludes that the attitude we choose largely determines how we’ll handle adversity. We should ask ourselves: Are we hopeful, positive, thankful, cheerful, patient and kind — or are we despondent, cynical, unhappy and critical or harsh to others? It’s our choice.
So How Does This Relate To Mediation?
Fair question. As a full time mediator for 10+ years, I have watched you relate to your clients. I’ve seen clients hang on your every word. I’ve heard you encourage, or discourage, them in their time of need. I’ve seen you play an important role in the lives of your clients.
I want to encourage you that, although you may not always feel it, you are appreciated! The people you represent need you. And yes, your attitude in serving them is your choice. Which is why I want to encourage you to make a good choice. Choose to be one who encourages, builds-up and shows empathy and compassion at a time when it’s needed most. Many of you already do this. In doing so, I believe that you will not only benefit your client, but you will also benefit yourself. Whatever struggle, demon, or difficulty you are facing is best handled with a good attitude.
Think Positive. Make A Difference.
As a mediator, I work hard to make cases better. It’s my privilege to serve you, and I always try to remind your clients that their cases don’t define who they are. It may impact their circumstances, but it doesn’t define them. I try to encourage lawyers and clients make good decisions about settlement. In doing this with a positive attitude, I hope that I am helping them — and you — through the process.
So again, let me encourage you: Choose your attitude wisely. It matters!