I was recently reminded how unfamiliar terminology in a whole new world can be daunting to folks who do not live there. I am a lawyer and I know a lot of legal terms, just like doctors know a lot of medical terms. I’m sure the doctors don’t know all of my legal terms, and I am positive I do not know all of the medical terms.
My wife and I just recently had a baby and I found myself in the delivery room asking questions about terminology the doctors and nurses were using back and forth. Now, this is my third child so I’ve been through all of this two times before. But I still find myself wondering what some of those words mean and what is the practical implication for me.
This experience is probably similar for folks who retain me to represent them in a personal injury case or any case for that matter. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been through litigation before, the terms are still new, still unfamiliar. It is my job as the professional to explain the terms and the practical implications to my clients and make sure they understand so that they can make informed decisions. This is why they hired me. This is my job as a lawyer.
There is an old tale that I heard in law school and I have no idea whether it is true, but the story, as I recall it, goes like this: On the first day of class, the professor comes in and writes on the board, “There is no such thing as a stupid question.” After speaking a bit, the professor stopped and asked if there were any questions. An eager student raised his hand and asked a question. The professor, after listening patiently to the question, turned around, picked up his eraser, and cleared the empowering message he had earlier written on the board. The professor turned back around, looked at the class, and said, “Are there any other questions?”
During this latest medical encounter, I sometimes felt stupid asking questions even though my questions were always answered and the medical professionals did nothing to make me feel that way. These folks did not make me feel the way the professor made the student feel. My feelings were self-imposed. In other words, my insecurity in a whole new world created my vulnerability and uncertainty. Even though I felt that way, I pressed on and asked questions. Once the terms were defined, I felt educated, empowered, and enabled to help my wife make good medical decisions.
The same is true in the law. If you have questions about what something means, don’t be afraid to ask. Press on. Your lawyer may not remember that these terms are unfamiliar to you because it is a word he or she uses on a daily basis. As a lawyer, I often forget that this is a whole new world to my clients. Get all of the information and make sure you understand so that you can make an informed decision. You should feel educated, empowered, and enabled when you are asked to make important legal decisions. But you may only get there by asking questions. Remember, there is no such thing as a stupid question. And I will not erase that from the board.