I recently had my right knee totally replaced. I picked a highly recommended surgeon and hospital, was given a well printed booklet to prepare me for having joint replacement, attended the mandatory joint replacement class, and followed every instruction I was given to prepare to end the arthritic pain I have been dealing with for a year. But the standard protocol and procedures for the hospital’s joint replacement program did not serve me as an individual. I learned that not everything is standard and treating someone with strict standard protocols can leave them feeling like the service received was less than optimal.
I also learned that professionals need to listen to understand the exact problem. There were a few of the hospital staff who did listen and treat me like an individual and with respect. I had been told that the IV had to be placed in the hand (and I will do anything to avoid using my hand for blood draws or IVs). The pre-op nurse listened to my concern, looked for an alternative acceptable location and, being unable to find one, was gentle and only poked me once to make the procedure as painless as she could. She actually showed that she listened and cared about my comfort level and fears.
The decision to actually cut off parts of my leg and replace them with metal and plastic has been an emotional and difficult decision. I learned that the doctor does the procedure with the patient having a spinal block only because it helps with pain control. I did not want to see, hear, smell, or be even remotely cognizant of the procedure as it was being done. I would have literally freaked out during the procedure. When the anesthesiologist came in, we discussed my concerns about the spinal block. He took the time to explain the process for the spinal block and said that he had a cocktail to take me to “la-la land” and asked if that would that be ok. Yes, being in “la-la land” while the doctor replaced my worn out knee was absolutely fine. In fact, I remember being in a field that was the brightest green and with the most exquisite flowers, including ones I had never seen before, and having a feeling of total and complete happiness.
So what has this taught me about being a better attorney? Not everyone fits into my standard policies and procedures. Where I can adapt them, I need to do so and quickly. This means the initial call to my office staff has to find out the important information and document the file with it. The firm needs to start listening to the client’s goals and make that key. I may not be able to deliver every goal, but I need to have a clear understanding of what the client’s expectations are. We need to be documenting the client files with notes from every communication. I need to know what the staff has told clients and be prepared to correct the misunderstandings quickly and not learn of them when the damage has already occurred. The firm needs to inform the client how the legal process works, typical time frames, and that not every motion can be won or should even be filed.
I am taking this experience of replacing my worn out knee and using it to make my efforts as your attorney or your friend’s attorney be an experience that does not shock them or leave them feeling unprepared or helpless.