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WHAT A LAYWER DOES

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Greetings everyone! This week marks 202 weeks of JC Law Corner! It seems like only yesterday that I began writing these articles and now we are at 202...Wow! To commemorate this milestone, I want to present to you something a little different this week. This week I am giving you an inside look into what it's like to be a lawyer.

Why Lawyers Get A Bad Rap

For the most part, lawyers are good people. I don't know about my fellow collegues, but I became a lawyer because I wanted to help people.  I actually think laywer's are underappreicated and recieve unwarranted blame. So much so that there are endless lawyer jokes out there. Just the other day, a lawyer friend of mine told me one. He asked me: "What's the difference between a lawyer and a mosquito?' I answered, "I don't know. What?"  His answer: "When you die, mosquitos will stop sucking your blood and drop off".  Hahaha!  Don't get me wrong...most lawyer jokes are funny and I do laugh at them. (You have to have a sense of humor about these things because life should not be taken too seriously). It's just that sometimes I worry that these lawyer jokes may possibly perpetuate the negative view of lawyers. Who knows? Let's explore the possible reasons for why people might not like lawyers. 

Reason (1): ONE BAD APPLE RUINED FOR THE BUNCH - somewhere, some time ago, a lawyer did something bad and people just group all lawyers together with this guy. It's like the old saying, 'one bad apple ruins the bunch'. So its' not that lawyers are bad as a whole; it's the one bad lawyer who ruined it for the rest of us. Unjustly included with us lawyers are 'tannats'. Tannats are not lawyers! Their incompetence can not and should not be lumped in and imputed to the work lawyers do. We are held to a different standard of review and a higher level of work quality, so please don't impute their failures on us lawyers.

Reason (2): People have a MISGUIDED BELIEF that they can get whatever they want if they hire an attorney. Not true! We can only do so much as we are capable of, equiped with, and bound by the rule of law that we must abide by. At my office, we say our client's "best interest is priority number 1". What that means is that, we will do our best to obtain whatever we can that is best for you, the client. That doesn't necessarily mean that we will achieve what you want, although we will definitely try to. Of course! The truth is: No lawyer can guarantee you get your greencard, or that you will win your lawsuit, etc. That's just impossible because there are things we can't control. For example, in dealing with an adjustment of status case for a client to get his green card through marriage, my first task is to first consult with the client to verify that they are elgible to begin with. After that is confirmed, I gather the relevant evidence, prepare the appropriate package, and submit all required forms and fees. Now, it's time for the interview. This is not conducted by me. It's an interview conducted by immigration (USCIS). The officer will ask you questions based on your marriage. This portion of the process is up to you and your spouse now. I can't answer for you because I don't now the nuiances of your marriage; only you and your spouse know the answers. I successfully got you your key to the interview, now its your opportunity to turn the key and enter. I hope this sounds reasonable to you as you read this. Another way to look at it is, I'm like your soilder whom you hired to fight for you. The evidence you give me is like the armor I put on myself to go out and battle for you. The more evidence you give me, the more protection and weapons I will have to fight for you and the better the chance of me winning. So, when it come down to it: hiring an attorney doesn't guarantee you'll get what you want, but it will increase your chances.

Reason (3): CRIMINAL LAW - Althought I do not practice criminal law, I think a major source of ill-will and hatred towards lawyers comes from what people have seen on TV, have read in the newpaper or have heard stories about criminal defense lawyers. First of all, let's get this straight. Criminal defense lawyers defend people who have been arrested and charged for criminal acts such as stealing, assault, murder, and so forth. It's only natural for lay people to jump to conclusions about the defendant; that is, that they are guilty of doing the bad act because if they hadn't done it, why would they have been arrested by the police and are going to trial. Right?  Wrong! The fact is, you never know. The charges are just allegations; they are not fact. I can't begin to tell you the statistics on people who have served time in jail for murder, yet after so many years, they are released because new DNA testing has proven that they in fact did not kill the victim. The defense lawyer's job is not to get a guilty person off, but to force the government to prove that this person is really guilty. People automatically assume the person is guilty, and because he is represented by the attorney, that attorney is a bad person. Not so! Can you imagine if you were arrested, but didn't do the crime. You were in the wrong place at the wrong time, or for some other misunderstanding, the police came and arrested you?  I bet you would change your opinion of your defense lawyer. People need to keep an open mind. Don't rush to judge like most people. Be patient and consider all the evidence presented, then make a judgment.

Although there are probably many other reasons why lawyers are disliked or have a bad rap, I think the aforementioned three are big reasons why. And yet, as much as lawyers are hated, it is a lawyer that a person calls first when he gets arrested, or immigration sends them a notice of intent to deny or a deportation letter! It is at this point that the lawyer becomes your best freind and savior!

Types of Clients that Lawyers Often See

 1) The trusting and cooperative client - this is the lawyers dream client. This type of client listens to the attorney, provides everything the attorney requests from him, and believes and trusts the attorney to do his work. This client understands that the attorney is on his side and is doing the best he can to help him. He understands that processes might be slow at certain times at that these delays are not the fault of his lawyer but just a matter of reality (government and court systems are slow, things get lost in the mail, government workers make mistakes, etc). Generally, these types of people live better lives because they are not as stressed as others. In turn, they usually get the best results.

2) The client who insists he/she is the attorney's only client - this client fails to consider the fact that he/she is not the only client the attorney has. When this client calls, they expect the attorney to know every nuiance of his/her case, down to their social security number and where the client and his/her spouse met each other. This client expects their case to be done and approved before all others, even if they came in after every other client the attorney has. At this office, we take and process cases on first come, first served basis, unless of course, the case needs immediate attention as in a deadline or tolling of the statute of limitaions. Every other law firm that I am familiar with and have assisted, follow the first come, first serve method.

3) The never happy, know-it-all client - this type of client is never happy and must blame someone rather than themselves. This is the type of client that never does any self-reflection and their entire thought process is clearly misguided and ego-based. Either they've never been told 'no' in their life, and/or they think that everyone, including the attorney (who not only graduated from law school and passed an intense BAR exam fyi!) and immigration officers (who are sworn government employees!), are not intelligent enough to understand their case. (Of course, if they really did know everything - why did they have to hire the attorney in the first place?!?)  And if their case is unfortunately denied, they will first blame the lawyer, then immigration, then their neighbor or whoever else; they will blame just about anyone else, just not themselves. This type of client is usually the most stressed because they are constantly blaming others. For this type of client, I only offer this tip: Relax and let us do our job! Stay patient and cooperate with us if we request something from you. We won't ask you for something if we didn't think it was relevant. Yours is not the first case I've ever done so equip me with the armour and weapons I need to fight for you! Sit back, relax and watch me do battle.

Lawyers & Stress: We Have One of The Highest Rates of Alcholism When Compared to Other Professions

Being a lawyer is hard work. Not only are you often underappreciated and work long hours, it can be extremely stressful at times.  Everyone has stress. Everyone has difficult times. But the lawyer's job is especially stressful because it is our job to take on other people's problems. That is, more than half of the clients that walk into your office are facing some stressful event - be it, a car accident, a divorce, an immigration deportation, a business deal gone sour between partners, etc. Whatever it is, the lawyer is retained to deal with that problem. The client comes into the office fully expecting the lawyer to "fix" the problem! Many of my collegues have gone through episodes of depression and anxiety. To cope, many turn to acohol. It's no wonder that lawyers have one of the highest, if not the highest, acohol abuse rates among all professions. And let's not even consider other abusive substances; those must be high too! Luckily for me, I have never felt a need to turn to alcohol or any other substance. To alleviate stress, I like to do something physical like play basketball, soccer, workout, or hike. I used to meditate but I have not been doing that alot lately. I know I should because meditation is good for you, its good for your brain, your heart, and your soul. I just feel the physical aspect of being outdoors is better suited for me at this point in my life. If you would like to share how you handle stress, please do email me. I would love to hear from you.

Work Ethic Unlike Any Other

So as I mentioned, this article is a glimpse into my world: What's it like to be me? Well, besides working tirelessly for each and every one of my clients while I'm at the office, I take my work home. That is, even when I leave my office, or its late night, and even on the weekends, I am still working on and thinking about my clients and their case. Usually attorneys don't do this. The ideal situation is once you walk out of the office and leave for home, you are supposed to leave your work at the office. Once you "clock out", you shouldn't be working off hours. But that's not me. Something in my DNA, maybe the way I was raised, but I can't seem to just "clock out".  I'm always working! If you knew me, you would know that I take every single case seriously. Regardless of how small a case may seem, I treat it and my client as any other case.  I am constantly looking for a way to achieve the best for my client. To be honest, I can't remember the last time I took off work for a personal vacation. It must have been over 10 years or more since I've taken a vacation. I hope to eventually have time to rest and take a vacation, but right now, I just can't. There's too many things to do. Too many people to help. When I find a lull in my practice, I'll take a short 1 or 2 weeks off. Until then...I'm not "clocking out" and will continue to work for my clients.

Talk is Cheap: Actions Speak Louder Than Words!

In week 91, I wrote an article about how talk is cheap and actions speak louder than words. It was a personal opinion that people often make promises they don't keep. The reason why is because talk is cheap. It doesn't cost you any money. Anyone can say anything. For example, and unfortunately, this has happened to many of you readers or to someone you know. You go and see a tanat or an attorney about your immigration issue. They are kind and speak to you nicely. They say something like: "Don't worry...I can get you your green card. No problem. I'll get you your green card, your work permit, your travel permit so you can go visit Thailand and come back.  I'll handle everything."  Sounds good, right? Of course!  ...But try to contact them after you've paid them. See how different you'll be treated, that's even if they will talk to you. And worse yet is if a problem comes up with your case. (Although attorneys are better than tanats at handling problems that arise, its not by much). Why this sudden change in how they treat you? Again, it's because talk is cheap. It doens't take any more effort or time to be nice to you in the beginning, because their motive is to get your money. I know this is true because I've handled a lot of cases that have come to me after a problem comes up and either (a) a tanat doesn't know what to do next and says he's not responsible for it, or (b) a lawyer doesn't know or want to take on the extra work. There's a difference between getting your money, and earning your fee. Unlike the aforementioned, I take my word very seriously. I don't overpromise and undeliver...it's not in my nature nor in my character. Having my last name of Chitmongran, I come from a family of hardworkers, therefore I have a duty to work with focus and determination. I know you can't please everyone, all the time. They'll always be those that feel they didn't get what they wanted. However, with any of my past clients, no one can say that I promised something and then didn't deliever. The reason why is because I'm upfront from the start. If you have a difficult case, I'll tell you that you have a difficult case. Still, some people don't like it. They come into your office expecting that you, the lawyer, will "fix it". Some of these people will leave and shop around until they find a lawyer who tells them what they want to hear, even if the result is impossible. Not me. I'll be honest with you. I won't sugar coat it and give you a false sense of hope. What I'll do is go over the case with you, give you options, and once you decide, assist you in the best way I can in order to achieve what's in your best interest. Being upfront and honest is the only way!

Conclusion and A Word to My Son

If my son came up to me later and told me he wanted to be a lawyer, I would try to dissuade him. I would tell him: "Son...law is a noble profession. You can do so much good as a lawyer. You can help people. You can help their families. Their lives. You can effect change. And government. You can do so much as a lawyer...but it is often thankless and stressful, and sometimes, you'll get blamed for something that was not in your control. I'd rather you become a doctor".

I didn't choose law, it chose me. I was destined to do this. To help people. To protect those that need protection. To fight for the rights of others. To give them peace, an opportunity for a better life. It feels good to get a 'thank you' from a client, but I don't need it. I'm satisfied and happy knowing that I was able to achieve something nice for them. That because of me, they are able to stay here in America, bring their families, and build a future here. In that sense, being a lawyer is rewarding. So to my son: 'On second thought...if you want to be a lawyer, I'll whole-heartedly support you! Being a lawyer is the noblest of professions. Be a lawyer and be the best at it!".

So there you go: just a little glimpse into what's like in my world of being a lawyer. In the next article, I'll go back to answering your email questions and/or covering hot topics in the law. Thank you to my readers for all the continued support. Here's to another 100 weeks of JC Law Corner in Sereechai!  If you have questions, or need assistance, please contact my office at (818) 846-5639, or my Thai assistant at (818) 505-4921. If you have any questions that you would like to be answered in future articles, or would like to share your opinions, please email me at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Also, don't forget to visit my website at: WWW.JC4LAW.COM for general information regarding Business, Immigration, Property and Family Law. Also be sure to check us out on the web at: WWW.JC4LAW.COM, and now on FACEBOOK at: https://www.facebook.com/ThaiAttorney Be sure to follow (and "like") me for the most recent updates in the law!

 

Disclaimer: The information contained herein have been prepared for informational purposes only and are not to be considered legal advice unless otherwise specified. All opinions expressed are those of the author and in no way shall be associated with Sereechai Newspaper. If you have a specific question regarding your personal case, please contact the Law Offices of Joseph Chitmongran for a full consultation.