Last week was Teachers Appreciation Week, and I want to take a few minutes to “thank” teachers – both past and current -- but also relate it back to the legal field. “How on earth is Jenny going to do that?” I am sure that is what your subconscious mind is asking. Well, to be honest, I think the field of law could learn quite a lot from our teachers. I discovered last week was Teacher’s Appreciation Week from my fiancé, who is a High School teacher. He exhibits an admirable amount of patience and kindness every single day. Not only that, he takes large, complicated concepts in government, economics, and history and boils them down to make them easier to understand. When you take a step back, the estate planning and elder law field should not be all that different.
Patience. Powers of Attorney, Wills, Trusts – oh my! There are so many topics and concepts that fall under the “estate planning/elder law” umbrella that it is difficult to keep things straight. There have been times where I have heard, “Jenny, I am so sorry … but will you explain that just one more time?” Sometimes, it takes individuals and families a couple seconds, minutes, or days to fully understand something … and that is okay. Like a teacher and student, an attorney should always be patient with the client – it is unreasonable to expect that a client will “get it” or “catch on” immediately. After all, different people learn and analyze in different ways. Sound familiar?
Kindness. We have a saying around the office that goes a little something like: “Treat the client as you would want your own parents and/or grandparents to be treated.” Oftentimes, individuals and/or families have something going on to land in our conference room. Perhaps someone is about to have surgery, someone had a heart attack, or someone is heading into a nursing home – sometimes they just need some guidance, sometimes they need a game plan, and sometimes they just need a hug. I think this empathy, this gentleness, this kindness is occasionally missing in the legal industry. It could really learn something from teachers. Can you imagine what teachers are faced with day in and day out? They often have such a diverse class, but yet each and every student can feel their teacher’s kindness. Consider the possibility that the client could feel that very same way.
Simplicity. We are trained in law school to think a little differently, analyze a little differently, and even speak a little differently. Where my frustration lies is, why on earth should the client feel the repercussion(s) of that? Therefore, it is critical that attorneys explain things in a way that the client can understand. They are deserving of having the power of knowledge without the attorney boring them with Indiana Code this, Indiana Code that, and a whole bunch of legal jargon. Teachers (hopefully) do not stand in front of a room and read word-for-word out of the textbook to empower their students. Instead, they are excellent communicators who have the ability to simplify large, complicated concepts. Let us take a lesson out of their lesson book.
So, teachers: We have a lot that we could learn from you. Your patience, kindness, ability to simplify concepts, and the numerous other admirable qualities that you exhibit certainly do not go unnoticed by me. Thank you for being you, and thank you for doing what you have done and are doing. I hope you had a very Happy Teacher’s Appreciation Week!
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