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Good lawyer = good listener

A good lawyer must be a good listener.

If asked, most people would likely describe their image of an excellent lawyer as a lawyer who is good in trial advocacy (in the courtroom), good in public relations, and good in his or her writing. All of these forms of communication are outgoing.

But what is lost upon many people is that, in order to fully and properly understand a case, a lawyer must gather facts and information before formulating the above-mentioned outgoing communications. What goes out must be based upon what comes in. In any practice of law that is client-facing (such as the fields I work in: family law and family-based immigration law), that means the ability, or better yet the skill, to be able to ask the right questions and truly listen to the answers of one's clients.

Fact-gathering is the foundation upon which the rest of the case is built. You cannot successfully make a closing argument unless you keenly know and understand the application of your particular facts to the law, just as you cannot safely put a roof on a house without a strong foundation and framing to that house.

If you are shopping for a lawyer, request a consultation and use that opportunity to observe whether the lawyer is asking the right questions and, more importantly, really listening to your answers. If not, that lawyer is more likely than not plugging your fact-pattern into a preconceived cookie-cutter case, which is completely contrary to the objective of justice.

This is a tendency, or perhaps even a temptation, of many lawyers of all experience levels. Sometimes it is precisely because of that experience that a lawyer gives in to the temptation of snap judgments. As a client looking for a lawyer, be careful not to judge a book by its cover. Pay attention that the lawyer is paying attention to you.

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