I was expressing to a friend’s wife over the weekend that I really like working with the elderly because, among other things, they genuinely appreciate me. Well, most of them. Sometimes they scream at me just because I went to law school and know more about the law than they do.
But one thing that I have learned is that I really need to be thanked by my clients. This might seem silly, but I make about as much as a waiter, and I spend at least an hour with each my clients, on average. My job takes an incredible amount of patience, patience I don’t have in any other aspect of my life. And I have that patience with my clients because I know they need my help. I know that they are one of the most vulnerable populations, and that they don’t experience a lot of kindness in their lives in our city. But at the end of the day, I also know that they leave my office feeling better; feeling like everything will be alright, or at the very least, they will be treated fairly and they got their story told.
I spent an hour and a half with a woman explaining to her that her dentist office, in fact, did not overcharge her, and did in fact do her a favor. I added up the numbers for her, pointed out her bill, explained everything. Even though, at the end of the day, she owed $100 more than she thought she did, she thanked me profusely. And after she thanked me, I didn’t even mind that I’d devoted an hour and a half of my time to helping her. So it helps keep me doing my job, knowing that I’m appreciated.
People that call my office and yell at me, people who feel that they are entitled to my services, they do not endear themselves to me. They are my least favorites, in fact, and if I have to pick between clients, I’m gonna pick the one that thanks me at the end of the day. I’m not sure if this is the right thing to do. One of my professors told me that I should in fact, not expect a thank you from clients, or let the lack thereof affect my work (which I do agree with). Her general attitude was that pro bono attorneys should treat their clients no differently than paying clients, and therefore, not expect to be thanked.
My general attitude is that there are many, many, many very real differences between a pro bono attorney and a paid one, and that along with clients who regularly miss appointments, are happy to wait to see me when we’re running behind, and call me to ask them for help with non-legal problems like their cable bills, I think that clients should thank attorneys who don’t charge them. I generally think that you should thank anyone who helps you, whether they charge you or not, and that you should especially thank people who don’t.