As a snow & ice management professional, knowing that your attorney is on your side and at the ready when you need him should bring peace of mind. You aren’t in an easy business, which is why having professional advisors - whether an attorney, an accountant or other consultant - whom you can trust to look after your best interests is paramount.
Those relationships are built with open communication and honesty above all. But, it goes both ways, particularly when it comes to legal matters. I cannot represent a client to the best of my ability if he or she isn’t honest and forthright.
Following are some scenarios that exemplify the importance of trust and honesty in an attorney-client relationship:
Your best defense
Clients generally come to me when they are faced with a number of situations, including drafting contracts, corporate and employment issues and collection cases. The most common reason clients seek my assistance is for slip-and-fall lawsuits. In defense of these cases, I rely on service documentation supplied by my client, weather conditions and the contract. But the most important factor to presenting a successful defense is the credibility and honesty of my client.
When entering into relationships with new clients, I make sure they understand that I need their full cooperation and trust to achieve the result they are seeking. If I am defending a lawsuit brought against a snow & ice company for a failure to properly service a job location, I need my client to tell me if there was a service problem. If my client explains what may be a problematic area early in a case, together we can decide how best to present our position. Many times we realize the problem is not as significant as initially thought.
Understand the process
Clients who are new to litigation or unsophisticated when it comes to legal matters may be uncomfortable with the process. This is expected, and it is my job to make them comfortable.
I do my best to explain the process, and make sure the client understands we need to trust each other as we proceed. I gain the trust of my client through communication, as I make sure the client understands all steps of the legal process, and is not surprised or confused by the proceedings. I find communication is vital in establishing and then fostering the growth of a relationship.
My clients must have confidence that they can honestly describe any situation to me and that I will not disclose sensitive information. My clients are generally aware an attorney-client privilege exists, but they are still sometimes hesitant to reveal what they believe may be harmful information. It is my goal to make sure my clients feel comfortable, and make sure they will not hesitate to disclose all necessary and important information.
The other side of the coin
As a young attorney, I came to realize not all litigants were completely forthright.
Thankfully, as my client base of snow & ice professionals grew, I realized the industry is, for the most part, made up of hardworking, honest individuals. With very few exceptions, my clients in the snow & ice industry are merely seeking to achieve a fair outcome.
When I deal with other attorneys and others in the judicial system, I am always honest, and I always keep my word. An attorney who acts unethically will quickly gain a poor reputation and will not be able to serve as an advocate for his client and will not secure favorable results.
As a snow & ice professional, commit to fair and ethical dealings with all people, including competitors. The level of trust and respect you gain will serve you well in all business pursuits.
Darryl Beckman founded Beckman Roth Ogozalek, which has offices in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.