Instilling client confidence: the Dawg’s true confession.

We lawyers strive to instill confidence in our clients. We want the client to feel comfortable. We want the client to believe that the lawyer is on top of things, smarter than the other guy, well prepared and eager to support the client’s cause.  Here’s a true story from my early days when I learned an important lesson about this.

I was representing a school district in a special education due process hearing.  The night before the hearing I was spending the night in a hotel close to where the hearing would be conducted. The district’s special education director (let’s call him Bill) had traveled out of town with me, and we were rooming together to save the district some money.  I liked Bill, and considered him a friend, so this was no problem.

Just before we turned out the lights, I pulled out the little book that I had been studying.  Bill saw what I was reading and the following exchange occurred.

Bill: What is that you’re reading?

Dawg: The Easy Way to Win Special Education Hearings, by Jane Slenkovich.

Bill: Now? Tonight?? You are just now reading this book????

Dawg: Well….yeah.  I’ve been reading it for awhile.  I’m just about up to the part about cross examination.

Bill: Yikes!! This is like getting on the airplane and seeing the pilot reading “How to Fly an Airplane.”

Dawg: Oh…I hadn’t thought of it that way.

I have not made that mistake since.  Others, yes—but not that one.


Tomorrow: Referral for special ed three months before graduation.