Today has been an interesting day for the “Why Lawyers Suck and What You Can Do About It” book project. First thing this morning I got a phone call from someone passionately supportive of this project and everything it stands for. She has had first-hand experiences with lawyers and the judicial system and she knows what she’s talking about. Then this afternoon I got contacted by some lawyers passionately defensive of their work and thus offended by my book. I don’t think they got past the title as was evidenced by my communications with them.
This is not a lawyer-bashing book. It is not just another diatribe against lawyers. In fact, if you take a look at the Sneak Peek of my writing, and some of my other writing samples, I think you will see that I am not throwing lawyers under the proverbial bus. I have some self-interest in that regard having committed almost half of my life to this profession. Many of the things that we as lawyers do that annoy our clients are not things that we consciously do, or at least don’t do with any evil intent. Nothing will change, however, unless we take a hard, honest look at how we interact with others.
What is most interesting about the reaction of lawyers to this book title is instructive. Social scientists Richard Nesbitt and Dov Cohen conducted a series of experiments at the University of Michigan some years ago into the “culture of honor.” This research will be discussed in more detail in the book, but what they did as part of their research was to provoke a hostile reaction in test subjects by having someone refer to them as “a–hole.” This single word managed to provoke a visceral reaction in the test subjects that was measurable in terms of body language and physiological reactions. Nesbitt and Cohen made conclusions as to why certain groups of test subjects reacted more aggressively than others to this provocation, but I was more interested in what caused the provocation in the first place. It was a word. Not a nice word to be sure, but just a word.
I first grasped the powerful impact of words several years into my practice with an interaction with an attorney in what should have been a simple, unemotional case. I understood even more 12 years later in a FAST Defense class.
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