I had a Metro cop come to the office the other day for a free consultation. When I greeted him in the waiting room, before he even rose from the couch to shake my hand, he stated that he didn't like or trust lawyers. I smiled and replied that most people I meet do have a bad impression of lawyers these days, particularly if they have had to hire one for a minor criminal offense or felt they got less than their personal injury attorney after an auto accident. Police officers deal with lawyers all the time, and are subjected to cross-examination directed at the officer's credibility or ability to recall details of accidents.
As I was listening to this officer's complaints about lawyers, my son's 102-lb puppy, named Billy, barged through the door to rest his large head on the officer's thigh, just inches from the gun on his hip. It took me a moment to corral Billy to a manageable energy level in my office, but the distraction and rough start to an initial consultation with this potential new client, somehow instantly impressed this officer that I was a good person, even if I was a lawyer. The officer and I had a good meeting. He seemed to enjoy the sounds of my beagle Susie snoring loudly under my desk, while Billie gnawed audibly on a ham shank behind his chair. I sat across from him with my long-haired Doxie occupying half of my chair, and noticed that the dogs had helped him relax enough to listen to me.
I don't mean that it was a good meeting just because he decided to hire me to represent him at the end of the consultation. It was good because he learned some new things from me that he hadn't considered about his claim. I got the feeling that he trusted my expertise when he left, but I wondered how much of that was attributable to my discussion with him, or the simple presence of my three dogs in the office.
I keep the hounds in the office because these three dogs are very spoiled, hopping into the car to go with me most places. Petting a dog throughout the day also helps to calm me when dealing with an unreasonable insurer. But, a side benefit to having the pleasure of their disruptive company all day is having people instantly think I'm probably a good person. You can have the most experienced and brilliant lawyer, but if her or she doesn't know how to care about other living beings, the lawyer is probably no good for the client.