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Tell Your Client They’re Going To Get Kicked In The Balls

tkd sparring gear lawyerAt the tail end of last year, my son began taking Tae Kwon Do (TKD). I’ve done martial arts for much of my life, my son is half-Korean, and TKD is the national martial art of Korea, so TKD was a natural choice. He took his first belt test last month and passed (very proud).

But with his new rank came new responsibilities and requirements. In particular, the introduction of sparring. Now, my son’s only six and in his age group they don’t do full contact, “live” sparring. But they do introduce it to them. Help them get familiar with it. Instead of getting hit being a scary experience, it’s actually something that’s kind of fun.

Along with this came sparring gear. My son proudly showed me his new helmet. Gloves, shin guards, foot protectors. Then he pulled something else out of his gear bag, held it up to me with his eyebrows furrowed, and asked, “Daddy, what’s this?”

It was a men’s boy’s athletic cup. I laughed. “Let me show you.”

I reached into my dresser and grabbed my cup. I showed him that I had one as well, where it went, how to put it on.

“You’re still little, so it hasn’t happened yet,” I tell him, “but when a man gets hit in his penis or scrotum, it hurts, A LOT.”

“Oh, like you have to go to the hospital?” he asks his voice rising.

“Not quite that bad. But it will make you feel like you need to throw up. And you can’t do much after it happens except curl up and lay on the floor. That’s why it’s important to have this cup to protect your vulnerable areas. Do you understand?”

“I think so.”

“It really important, you don’t ever need to spar unless you have this on, okay?”

“Okay Daddy! I’m going to go play now.”

“Ok.” And off he went.

Protecting Clients: Cover Your Assets

It’s funny how often I’ve heard business owners ask if this or that legal document is necessary. Do they really need to incorporate? Is it necessary for them to have a Terms of Service? Does the contract really have to be so long? It really seems like lawyers over complicate everything. Lawyers make things too expensive. Couldn’t it be more simple?

Then I patiently tell them that at some point in the future, it’s likely, although not guaranteed, that someone is going to try and kick them in the balls.

Not quite that crudely. More in a metaphorical sense.

Yes, you need a particular type of incorporation particular to the laws of our state. Yes, you need a Terms of Service unless you want to be dragged through the ringer. Yes, the contract needs all that obscure language that you think sounds silly because after you’ve been dragged to court we can show it to a judge and they’ll know exactly what it means.

When many people think of lawyers, they only think of the courtroom. They think of litigation. Litigation, largely speaking, is reactive. Someone sues after something has happened. It’s the clean-up process.

But a large amount of legal work is not reactive. It’s proactive and anticipatory. It’s about protecting clients. Wills, trusts, estates. Transactions, terms, contracts. These are things you do in anticipation of something else happening. They’re a protective cover to help shield oneself from litigation.

That’s not to say that litigation won’t still occur, people will still try to kick you in the sweet spot, but you’d much rather have a cup than not.

tkd dojang protecting clients

Communication Breakdown

It’s easy for lawyers to become entrenched in their position and lose the perspective of someone not well-versed with the law. They lose perspective on what it feels like to be a client. Many times clients will walk into a lawyer’s office thinking:

  • I’m worried.
  • I’m threatened.
  • I’m insecure.
  • I’m exposed.
  • I’m ignorant.
  • I’m impatient.
  • I’m suspicious.
  • I’m taking a personal risk.

Not always. Some clients are savvy consumers of legal services. Some aren’t. When you talk to a potential client it’s important to get a full understanding of what type of client they are and what they need. Trying to quickly and efficiently address their legal issues and hustle them out the door is doing them a disservice. You have to read the client, understand where they are coming from. You have to establish a rapport and build trust with the client.

The client might not know if their problem is simple or complex. They might not know how much such services might cost. They might have to reveal private or embarrassing information to you. In many ways, a lawyer provides protective gear for problems clients don’t know about and can’t anticipate ever happening. Clients don’t know that someone is going to try and kick them in the balls in the future.

It might not be pretty, or a fun thing to think about, but that’s often a lawyer’s job. To anticipate and prepare for problems that clients don’t know exist.

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