Advantage Denton

July 26, 2009

Are Lawyers One Trick Ponies?

Filed under: Melissa Denton Posts — Melissa Denton @ 8:10 pm

The public perception of lawyers is that we are good for one thing:

fighting in court.

Perry Mason and most TV lawyers since him have bolstered this impression. Ghandi and other great peacemaking lawyers are often not even recognized as lawyers. While it is true that attorneys hold a monopoly on appearing on another’s behalf in a courtroom (in the USA), we do not hold a monopoly on other ways of preventing and resolving problems. While I am not about to argue that we lawyers have a monopoly on solving problems, we are the primary reason that a lot of litigation is avoided. We do not exist only to litigate in court.

Some attorneys do see themselves as solely responsible for carrying on fights in courts as surrogates for clients. The vast majority of us, however, are far more clever and have many more tools at our disposal. When we provide services to clients with a different, non fighting model, we break the negative adversarial cycle. We explore peaceful and creative ways to prevent and resolve expensive and unpleasant fights. Finding the productive and safe path through the minefield of damaged relationships or high stakes negotiations is the most fulfilling type of lawyering, in my humble opinion.

One challenge that attorneys have is the initial education of the client about the options available for purchasing the lawyer’s services.  See Many Cost Effective Ways to Hire a Lawyer for descriptions of nine different types of lawyer services.

If each client calling me had to learn about even three or four of these lawyering choices before I let them hire me, they would run howling from the room. Just as I don’t educate a client about every possible issue of law that might tangentially relate to their case, I speak about only which options for hiring me are relevant to this relationship with this client. It would be nice if clients knew about all of the options, though. Then they could inquire about services that might work best for them instead of relying only on my educated guesses.

Just as I choose which subject areas of law and geographic areas I am willing to practice in, it is up to me to let clients know which methods of practicing law I prefer. If I really liked going to court and creating/filing lots of adversarial documents, I would advertise differently.  Since I prefer negotiation and cooperation, my ads have words like “Fighting is not your only option”. If a client says that their primary goal is to make sure the other side suffers, I direct them elsewhere.

In a sense, I suppose I am saying that we attorneys are “one trick ponies” because we often have a clear preference for the way we prefer to lawyer. We are, however, far more versitile and clever than just the public perception of the litigator model would indicate. If called upon to do so, most lawyers are willing and capable of using courts and litigation for our clients, but most of us use the far more powerful tools of interest based negotiation and planning ahead to avoid the need for wasteful adversarial means of resolving disputes.

I am glad to be a lawyer and a problem preventer and solver. It is very fullfilling work. It is also great to work with the great lawyer finders who also enjoy the legal community and helping connect clients to the right lawyer for their needs. Lawyers are not one trick ponies because we are capable of many creative and tailored solutions for opportunities and problems. Have us find the right lawyer for you.

July 17, 2009

Techno Manners & Count the Ways

Filed under: Melissa Denton Posts — Melissa Denton @ 5:13 pm

My legal assistant brought up a very interesting idea today. How are manners evolving in this day of so many modes of communicating? She has a friend who is annoyed with someone who returns voice messages by sending an email or by texting. These young folks think that it is rude not to reply by the same mode in which the contact was first made. In other words, return a phone call with a phone call. Text to a text. Reply email to an email. Technology manners. Who decides what they are and how does the decision about them get communicated to others?

David Pogue, technology columnist for the New York Times, wrote an article describing many pointers he received from other individuals using Twitter. Essentially, the rules about whether a particular tweet is or is not good manners are in the air. Generally, it is considered not good to lie or steal but the more refined set of rules is being played out on the Twitter field in real time, all the time.

This lesson in the “new manners” makes me think of the number of ways we receive direct communications these days. I receive communications by email to one of the nine email addresses I constantly monitor (consolidated into four gmail accounts). I receive voice mail on my office telephone system, on, on, on three different cell phones, on, or on my home answering machine which is connected to a cell by XLINK Cellular Bluetooth Gateway. I can also receive phone calls on seven different telephone numbers plus through I receive faxes on my fax phone number as forwarded to a phone number and emailed to me. My blackberry does not work to receive texts, so I don’t text. I receive communications through and through – each by multiple methods. I share documents on Google Docs. I use for chats and video conferencing.  I receive comments on this blog. Of course, this list of twenty-one electronic modes which I currently use to receive communications does not include the mass media I come into contact with. The list doesn’t include in-person communication.   Google and other chat programs are just waiting for a first time use so they can be added to the list.

How many ways can you be contacted? It makes one wonder how life could have gotten so complicated. I think it is interesting and fun, but it is clear to me that not everyone can keep up with this many ways to be reached. The simplicity movement might have a heyday with this concept, even though many of these communication modes are free and use few natural resources. If life is so complicated, it is a good idea to simplify the parts you can, like being wise enough to hire Advantage Denton when you need to have us find the right lawyer for you.

July 15, 2009

Social Networking

Filed under: Uncategorized — Melissa Denton @ 4:03 pm

I feel that I have been dragged, kicking and screaming, into the social networking world. Finally persuaded that it is a good business/networking idea, I signed up. Now that I am there, I like it just fine and consider it an enriching part of my life. And a time suck. But all socializing and all interacting with human beings takes time away from other things.

Ages ago, my thirty years older than me law partner finally persuaded me to get a cell phone. Like everybody else, now I consider it an essential. If I accidentally go somewhere without it I am very uncomfortable about not having my cell with me.  Who could have thought that being out of touch with Facebook and Twitter for a day could produce anxiety?

One really funny part of Twitter and Facebook is that to participate in them, you need to post some words. You could be paralyzed by indecision or you could use no thought and say something stupid. I prefer an in-between course of saying something at least a little thoughtful. A lot of my “friends” whom I actually view as a more casual, looser defined friend – a bit more than acquaintance – on Twitter post interesting bon mots. It is remarkably like a dog or cat killing and bringing a dead mouse to your doorstep to drop it there as an offering. We are all offering each other our thoughts, our work finding interesting things, and some slice of our being when we socialize. I like it but it is a new addition to and variation on the different types of relationships I have with people I spend time with in a physical sense. What a concept.

I am now on Facebook, but I limit who I “friend” there to old friends. On the public feed of Twitter, I am BlitheMDJD. You are welcome to follow me there. Welcome to a new (and better) world.

July 9, 2009

Opinions are Worth ?

Filed under: Melissa Denton Posts — Melissa Denton @ 10:19 pm

Some folks think that it is a responsibility or a right to have an opinion about everything. We do have a responsibility to form opinions about who will be our elected leaders and to vote for the candidates we think will do the best job. Some people think we have a responsibility to try to persuade others of our opinion on such matters. I think we need to know a lot about what we are talking about before proselytizing on candidates or on other opinions.

When clients pay me to give them my opinion on things I am expert on, like which lawyer they should hire or a Washington State and Thurston County Family Law question, it is my responsibility to give an opinion in a careful way. If I don’t have enough information to form a wise opinion, it is my responsibility to say so.

An awful lot of the time, I hear people express opinions on matters that they really don’t know much about. It seems that sometimes people are more forceful about ideas the less they have to base them on. When I am making a decision that involves trusting someone or relying on their discretion or good judgment, it is very helpful to me to look over what they have been willing to publish and where they publish it. If they declaim about every subject on earth, it seems likely that the value of their various stated positions is watered down. No one knows everything.

Since I have been learning more and more about the Internet and about social media, my thinking has solidified that it is good not to express opinions unless you really know what you are talking about. Also it is good to keep a lid on it when your opinion is not wanted. We all have something to contribute, but shoving unwelcome uninformed conclusions out into the public view is not worth much.

July 3, 2009


Filed under: Melissa Denton Posts — Melissa Denton @ 3:01 pm

My wonderful little boy just came home from a fireworks shopping trip with his daddy and uncle. He just had to immediately take off the outer wrapping and determine which firework each person most desperately wanted the honor of exploding. He was so jazzed. Is there any connection between the hullabaloo surrounding these holidays and the stated reasons we are celebrating the holiday?

Some people are quite willing to castigate others for failing to show the proper reverence for the underlying holiday basis. I wonder if we should go along with feeling guilty when we are not focusing profound thoughts on the philosophical underpinnings of a holiday. The 4th of July is a fairly safe holiday to mention that I wonder about this. On some other holidays, like Christmas or Memorial Day, quite a few people feel that other peoples’ lack of the proper type of reverence is offensive.

I get that some holidays are more sacred to certain people than other holidays. I don’t get how it is that they feel entitled to define how other people feel about a holiday. We do have traditions and it is lovely to share how we celebrate and why we feel the way we do about a holiday. Celebrating together is part of how we build community and strengthen relationships. Judging others is not.

I think that I won’t sweat the issue of why we celebrate on July 4 with my boy right now. He can just blow up stuff.

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