I put about 40,000 miles on my truck a year. I have cases all over the state and some across the country. I have a nice office and, of course, meet clients in the office. But many times, and maybe most of the time, I travel to meet the client. Why? I find that meeting people on their home turf helps me to better understand them. Many of my clients have never retained a lawyer before and they noticeably relax when I am just talking to them in their living room or in their shop. They are more themselves and open up easier at home. Usually, their kids and their dogs are there too. Family pictures come out and I can get a better sense of who they are.
I handle a lot of cases involving catastrophic injury and death, where traveling is hard for an injured or widowed person. Meeting with a lawyer after the death of a spouse in a sterile office can be very upsetting. Its better to sit at the kitchen table and take it all in. It’s important that I understand the dynamics of a person, a family, a case. Is this a happy and stable home? Or was this family in chaos before anything happened? What is the death of the breadwinner going to do to this family? How are they going to raise these kids that sit on their mom’s lap or hide behind the couch?
This is my window into their lives. At the office, we talk about medical records but at home, I see the wheelchair against the wall and the bathroom that was torn out to accommodate it.
But more than anything, what I see is their humanity. It helps me understand just a little bit of what they are going through. It helps me to connect and makes me want to fight for them. We are able to form the relationship that we will need to get through a tough case.
I have a case right now where a man was awakened by the kind of phone call no one ever wants to receive. Benjamin’s family had been involved in a terrible accident. His wife was dead and his daughter Alma and granddaughter, Leadele, were in critical condition. Four-year-old Leadele was flown to a children’s hospital 300 miles from her mother. As her life hung in the balance and she underwent mutiple surgeries, her grandfather was at her side and slept in the recliner by her bed. Weeks later, he took her home and reunited this little girl with her mother.
I remember sitting in the hospital room and thinking, “I doubt that I would have the courage to do what he is doing.” Later at their home, I watched as they started to rebuild their lives. I can never REALLY understand what they are going through but I think I am a better lawyer for having made house calls.