We Don’t Have to do Anything

I meet a lot of people in my work as a jury/trial consultant and in my “other life” as a musician. David says I don’t often respond to meeting new people very well, however, I believe many people I meet aren’t the kind of people with whom I would like to become further acquainted. A couple of years ago, I met someone with whom I formed an immediate connection. His name is Bob Howe. We have worked together on several high stakes cases and I have always been impressed with his vast world knowledge, kindness, and professionalism. Recently, Bob and I were discussing a case on which we had worked together that, for reasons beyond our client’s and our control, resulted in a mistrial. (For the reader unfamiliar with this term, a mistrial means trial that was not completed, due to one of several reasons, such that a new trial has to take place.) Bob, in ways similar to myself, is an astute observer of human behavior and he noted that, from the outset of the case, our client seemed to have the attitude of “I have to go to trial. I have to select a jury. I have to represent my client. I have to come to the courthouse today.” Like many people, Bob and I, as well as the rest of us, know, our client’s statements revealed a begrudging, duty bound approach to the performance of his job that cast a negative atmosphere on the entire situation. Think about this. How many of us say things like: “I have to go to work today.” “I have to get my car washed.” “I have to do laundry.” “I have to go to the gym, exercise, or ride my bike.” (Bob is a long distance bike rider, who specifically mentioned “having” to ride a bike in this context.) Bob told me he used to say things like this, until he realized the negative impact it was having on his life as a whole. He taught himself how to re-frame his conceptualization of the world and, instead of thinking and saying he “had” to do something, he began to think and say he “gets” to do something. Using the above sentences and substituting “have” with “get” results in the following re-framing of one’s situation. “I get to go to work today” means “I am lucky to have a job that pays money for me to support myself and my family.” “I get to have my car washed” means “I am fortunate to have a reliable means of transportation that could use a little cleaning.” “I get to do laundry” means “I have clothes to wear, some of which need to be washed.” And, “I get to go to the gym, exercise, or ride my bike” means “I am in a physical condition that allows me to move my body. I am not bedridden. I am alive.” Needless to say, I share Bob’s philosophy. For example, when I tell people that Monday is my favorite day of the week, I delight in seeing the expression on their faces. People’s reaction to hearing my statement look at me as if I am insane! “Monday?” they say. “Monday is the worst day of the week!” I then explain that Monday is my favorite day of the week because I get to go to work, I get to own my business for another week, I get to perform a job I love, and I get to help people who need my help. Yes, Monday is my favorite day of the week because I don’t have to do anything; I get to do everything.

From time to time I’ve observed these “have to do” clients and Melissa is right, it is a negative mindset.  We’ve had clients call and say they have to do a mock trial because their client is making them do it.  (With that attitude, I think the clients are on to something about how the lawyer is handling the case.)  These are usually difficult clients.  They know they have to do it, but they want to just go through the motions.  What usually happens in these projects is that someone from the client team shows up – the risk manager, the adjuster, a “coverage” lawyer, and maybe all of them.  They are there to evaluate the attorney.  What we know from the outset of mock jury research is that we’re going to learn things.  Often these things are unanticipated, or not the main focus of the research.  And, in the end, our clients should be more informed about the case and how to handle it, such that, though they were forced to do it, they are better for having done so.  Most ultimately reach this conclusion and are enlightened to the benefits of the process.  A few have stayed in the “have to” mindset, but very few.  Anyone who wants to improve their performance, their career, their client’s case, or any outcome for a customer in any setting, should look at the opportunities they are given to work, to learn, to think about life as opportunities, not “have to” experiences.  There are those things for sure, but major events, like going to trial, jury selection, doing a mock trial, and being paid to improve your standing business wise should stand apart from say, calling the credit card company, or dealing with a government agency over some minutia.  Magnus was represented one time in a matter by an attorney whose attitude I think ultimately drove the situation in a negative way.  I’ve therefore seen it from the client perspective and it is very frustrating to try to lift the attorney out of the mud he put himself in – at our expense.  So, when offering a service, consider how your attitude controls the outcome sometimes in bigger ways than others.

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