In my recent post, “Why don’t people trust lawyers and does it really matter?” I concluded that not only doesn’t it matter that people don’t trust lawyers, it’s actually a good thing.
It’s good for clients because it makes them more careful when hiring an attorney. They ask more questions. They don’t blindly follow. Caveat emptor.
It’s good for attorneys because it allows us to stand out from the crowd by showing how we are different, how we can be trusted, and with a little effort, this is not difficult to do.
But not only do people not trust lawyers, they also hate lawyers. Attorney Suzanne Meehle presents ten “bad lawyer” stereotypes that make people hate lawyers.
Ambulance chasers, unethical lawyers, a**holes, incompetents, and so on.
Some of these stereotypes are worse than others. The “24/7 Lawyer,” the workaholic on a path to burnout, doesn’t belong in the same category as the dishonest lawyer. I don’t think people hate lawyers merely because they work too hard. But we all get the point: there are plenty of examples of bad lawyers who give the rest of us a bad name.
I say this is a good thing. Why? Because stereotypes are almost always exaggerated depictions of real life, making it even easier to show people that you’re “not like that”.
If a lot of people don’t like lawyers because they perceive them to be bullies, for example, don’t be a bully. If they hate lawyers because they think we are unethical, go out of your way to display words and deeds consistent with the highest ethical standards.
I don’t particularly enjoy meeting people who, within the first minutes, feel compelled to tell me they, “don’t like lawyers”. But that’s the way it is and I do enjoy the challenge of winning them over.
In sales, it is said that the best prospects are often the ones who offer the most resistance. These prospects know they are naturally an “easy sale” and so to protect themselves from getting taken advantage of, they put up an outer wall. They may be surly and unpleasant, overly suspicious and overly demanding. The best sales people understand this and when they encounter a prospect who “protests too much,” shower them with kindness and patiently wait for them to “drop their shields”. The result is often a sale and a lifelong customer and advocate.
Don’t try to argue away the stereotypes. Acknowledge them. There are a lot of bad eggs out there and people do have to be careful. With a little common sense, you can easily distance yourself from this crowd and show you are one of the good guys. When you do, you’ll find people hiring you, in some cases simply because you’re not what they expected.