When one chooses a non-traditional career path like Melissa and I have as trial consultants, it is difficult for some family and friends to understand what we do, and why we do it. (Heck, it’s even hard to decide what to call ourselves, as discussed in other blogs; it could be trial consultants, jury consultants, or something else.) She and I have certainly experienced this phenomenon in various degrees. Until the recent television series, “Bull,” little was known of trial consultants, other than the their role in O.J. Simpson trial. Because of this, family and friends can’t relate to our work because we are not a known quantity. We’re not a lawyer, a banker (like my brothers), a mechanic, or a pilot. Nothing about our job cab be readily explained in a 1 or 2 word description. The other variable is that when we discuss helping lawyers with trials, the first inclination of the listener is that we’re involved in criminal trials. While we’ve done our share of those, generally, our work is in civil litigation. Add to that the confidentiality issues, to be discussed in an upcoming post, thus, it is hard for family and friends to relate to us when we are discussing what we do. In addition, we do few things on a routine or daily basis. Few days are the same as the day before. We go through so many processes and tasks before, during, and after each project that a simple description of what we do is difficult. Does this matter? I don’t know, but it has been odd that our world is so unfamiliar that many family and friends don’t bother asking about our work. Too much of our response has always been foreign, or confidential, to be able to discuss along the way. I guess it is just another challenge of the entrepreneur.
David’s topic is hilarious to me! Absolutely hilarious! For the most part, my family and friends are relatively unsophisticated people. I love them dearly, but there are few among them who really, truly “get it” when it comes to understanding what I do for a living. David describes his family’s and friends’ incomprehension about his work as an owner of a trial consulting business, but my family’s and friends’ lack of understanding of my work goes much deeper. For example, when I worked as Director of Marketing Research at a large hospital, many people close to me thought I was a nurse (even though I had a Ph. D. in psychology!). When my dear mother bragged to her sister in rural South Carolina that “Melissa is a DOCTOR,” upon arriving to my aunt’s house for a visit with my mom, she asked me to interpret her prescriptions. Going back to when I was in graduate school, some friends and family members thought I was in a special needs program, in that it was taking me so long to finish school (when, in reality, I earned my Ph. D. in near record time, at the age of 26!). When I tell people I am a psychologist, I am usually asked if I can read people’s minds; sometimes, I am asked to read their palms (this is no joke!). When I tell people I am a social psychologist who helps attorneys with their cases, many people have responded, “Well, I always knew attorneys were crazy and now you have proved I was right”! Once, when I made the huge mistake of telling one of my cousins I am a jury consultant, she remarked how much she loved pretty jewelry. When, finally and in exasperation, I tell people to just forget about understanding what I do for a living because surely, there is something else we can discuss, they usually appear grateful. As a final note, to those people who believe everyone can develop an “elevator speech” to provide a quick explanation of their job, I respectfully disagree. Even the TV show, “Bull” is, in my opinion, not an accurate portrayal of my job. Palm reading, anyone?