Johnson / Jensen LLP

Johnson / Jensen LLP

Posted on May 10, 2016

What Does It Mean to Be an “Effective Advocate”?

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Posted on May 10, 2016 by

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Attorney Aimee Gong joined our team last year after years practicing medical malpractice defense. This month, she reflects on her role at Johnson Jensen:

Like many attorneys, I chose law because I wanted to make a difference in clients’ lives. I have both the privilege and responsibility of fighting to get my clients the compensation they deserve. Or, as Indiana’s Rules of Professional Conduct put it, I’m supposed to be an “effective advocate” for them.

But figuring out exactly how to do that isn’t always easy. It requires navigating tough decisions and keeping my clients’ best interests at heart. So what does it look like for lawyers to be effective advocates when we’re faced with tough choices?

First, we treat clients with compassion. Many of our clients have suffered serious injuries or lost loved ones. In preparation for their cases, we have to ask them to recount what might be the worst days of their lives. It’s important to be sensitive and understanding as we listen.

As I’ve witnessed my colleagues providing compassionate care to clients, I’ve seen that we have the power to make their hardest days a little easier. Something as simple as offering tissues or picking up the phone when a client needs to talk can make a big difference.

We fight tirelessly. I never want to finish a case and feel like I could have done more for my client. I know my colleagues feel the same way. That motivates us to work hard even when we’re bogged down with paperwork and detailed case histories.

Relying on each other helps. I recently had to summarize around 3,000 pages of medical records for a case. The work was detail-oriented and exhausting. After a while, I started to feel like I’d hit a wall, so I asked a staff member who wasn’t familiar with the case to review my work. She helped me look at the case with a new set of eyes.

If I had been too proud to ask for help, I couldn’t have served my client as well. And I’m so grateful to know that when I do ask for help, nobody here will say, “That’s not my case.” As Travis says frequently, “We’re all a team, and we sink or swim together.”

But we set realistic expectations. When you work hard to serve a client, overconfidence can be tempting. But promising something you can’t guarantee is the exact opposite of effective advocacy. So even as we fight for clients, we make sure to set reasonable expectations.

After all, the best research and preparation in the world can’t guarantee an outcome, and no matter how good of a lawyer you are, occasionally losing a trial or lowering a settlement amount is inevitable.

And we remain objective about clients’ cases. As we listen to clients and offer support, we have to look at their cases through an impartial lens. If we get too emotionally involved, we won’t be able to serve them effectively and may do more harm than good.

Recently, I encountered a potential client who’d had bad side effects from medical treatment. After reviewing the details carefully, our team realized his case would be too difficult to prove. We wanted to get him a settlement, but we decided the best way to help him was not to accept his case. Otherwise, he likely would have spent a lot of time and energy without getting enough in return.

I’m lucky to have colleagues who care so deeply about serving clients and who help me advocate effectively. In both law and life, I believe you’re never done learning, and I couldn’t ask for a better team to learn alongside.