Every once in a while, I get the Are-You-A-Specialist-Question. And the question is always in relation to the common run of legal claims that require no special skill or knowledge such as car road accident claims, tenancy disputes, unpaid goods sold and delivered or services rendered, and breach of contract.
‘Are you a specialist in suing for tenancy issues?’ is a typical question.
The truth of the matter is not all legal matters require a legal specialist to run a claim. That is especially so with the common run of legal claims. Any competent litigation lawyer should be able to file such an action without great difficulty.
If I were to draw parallels with medical practice- this would be a general practitioner type of work, not one for a specialist. A tenancy issue is like a common cold or broken arm that you can be treated for by any competent litigation lawyer.
All such claims require of us as a lawyer is the application of our basic skills and abilities: our ability to assess the facts and evidence of the claim, formulate and draft the claim, and lead the relevant evidence in court at trial. If a litigation lawyer has difficulty with such claims, they have no business being in practice.
‘No, I am not a specialist in suing for tenancies. But you don’t need a specialist for such a claim. It is just rental owed. There is nothing complex or sophisticated about the claim. It’s a simple claim. All you need is a competent lawyer to sue for such a claim.’
I used to wonder why a lawyer would be asked such a question because I’d find them curious, if not annoying at times. The way it was asked sometimes felt like a personal affront. Now I understand what the question is really asking me is ‘Why should I trust you to bring this claim for me ?’ They just don’t know how to ask the question better.
I have learned the best way to address that question is by creating trust, building that relationship with the client and reduce their anxiety over their matter. And we can do that by demonstrating our competency, credibility and authority.
We do that by explaining to the client firstly, what they may get out of the claim; secondly, what the process of that claim is like; thirdly, how long that is expected to take; fourthly, what are the likely challenges their claims are likely to encounter; fifthly, what the client has to do to participate in that process; and finally, what that is the financial implication of that process.
I find explaining to them more or less these six things demonstrates competency and credibility in respect of my abilities over a matter. When I can demonstrate that the client fosters a sense of confidence and assurance that I know what I am doing and they can leave their matter with me. If I can respond to their queries without the hesitation of not knowing, that builds their confidence in me.
That is the way I approach and answer those type of questions now; not by reproaching, but by empathising.