Being a lawyer sometimes feels like an ungrateful job. Depending upon the type of law that you practice and the situation, sometimes clients just aren’t very nice. Sometimes, us lawyers don’t really feel very appreciated. That’s just the way it works. Some days are good days, some days just plain old suck. Everyone is angry at you, either because you gave them bad news, told them accurate information but not what they wanted to hear or they think they could have gotten better advice (what they wanted to hear) elsewhere. It’s not always, but when it happens it’s pretty demoralizing. Don’t get me wrong, I have great clients and I am very appreciative of them. Just like everything else, sometimes the bad tends to overshadow the good, your own personal black cloud if you will.
This morning, first thing, my phone rang. Turns out it was a woman who was in traffic court and needed to speak to an attorney right then to advise her if the plea deal she was being offered for her traffic offenses was reasonable and whether she should accept it. I politely explained to her that I really don’t do traffic court and definitely not up north where she stated she was located. She sounded beside herself and I felt that I could at least look up the statute for her and let her know what the fine and penalties were so she could make an informed decision about the plea deal she was being offered. While she waited on the phone, I took a few minutes to look up the statute that she was charged with, see what the penalties associated with that traffic violation were and gave her my thoughts on her situation. She hung up abruptly while we were still speaking since her name was being called in court. End of story, right? No. A while later, the woman called back, very grateful for the fact that I actually spoke to her, gave her some reassurance allowing her to be able to make a decision on the plea that was offered to her. Turns out, due to her haste in needing a quick answer to a question, we did not speak in much detail. She mentioned the town she was in at court but it turned out that she was actually in a town of the same name in an adjoining state, not in Vermont. The statute I looked up for her didn’t even apply to her situation since she wasn’t even in Vermont. She was very stressed about her situation and the pressure to make what seemed like a very big decision between taking the plea deal and facing much more severe consequences if she didn’t. She needed to talk to someone who could give her a direction. For me, it was a few minutes of being kind to a stranger on the phone but it meant so much more to this woman, who was able to compose herself and resolve her situation on her own. She called back to thank me and insist that she was going to pay me for my time, a nice gesture on her part, but we we both realized that she wasn’t even in the same state as I was in, or thought she was in, I explained to her that I couldn’t accept her payment since I am not licensed to practice law in her state and in fact, the advice I did give her didn’t even apply to her situation since it was a completely different statute in a completely different state, unknown to both of us at the time.
To me, it was about 3 minutes of my time talking to a stranger, to her it was so much more. I asked her to just do something nice for someone else she came across today, to pay it forward. It was a good start to the day. It made me happy, it made me feel appreciated. It made me happy to be a human.
Lesson learned, be kind, always. You never know when what you do can have a big impact on someone else’s day.