Written on February 14, 2013 – 7:44 am | by Angelique Moss
My daughter has a fantastic kindergarten teacher. Ms. Raymond is astoundingly organized, creative, and cheerful. Not surprisingly, my daughter adores Ms. Raymond (and, as a consequence, school too).
I was thinking about my daughter’s kindergarten teacher in the context of the Ontario Bar Association (OBA) ’s new “lawyers’ communication campaign”, called “Why I Went to Law School.” The campaign is intended to “encourage pride and enthusiasm” in the profession. No doubt the campaign is also intended to re-instill in the public respect and admiration for lawyers (love goes too far, no doubt).
Ms. Raymond needs no media campaign to convince me or my daughter that what she is doing is worthwhile. So I got to thinking – while unpacking my daughter’s ridiculously-huge backpack – what can I as an estate litigator learn from Ms. Raymond? And I came up with the following:
- Communicate Next Steps. My daughter always knows what’s “on tap” for the next day at school because we have a calendar that Ms. Raymond sends home with each student at the beginning of each month. We also receive a newsletter at least once a week from Ms. Raymond and, if that level of engagement is not enough, truly diligent parents can also check out her blog, “The Raymond Report”.
Similarly, our clients also need to have a clear sense of what’s the next step in litigation. Estate litigation is full of uncertainties, but clients should not be in the dark about procedural steps. Steps outlined in first meetings will often be long-forgotten. I have now told myself that procedural steps need to be communicated, often more than once, in writing.
- Start Early. Although my daughter’s still mastering printing, she wanted to send each of her 18 fellow students a valentine card that she planned to address and sign – all on her own. Yikes. Anticipating that this was a gargantuan-sized project, several weeks before Valentine’s Day, Ms. Raymond gave parents the invaluable suggestion to “start early” and try to complete only a few cards each day.
For me, affidavits inevitably take more time to draft than I initially anticipate, particularly if exhibits need to be located/organized by the client. I will keep the “start early” directive in mind the next time I prepare an application.
- Respond to Questions Promptly, No Matter How Small. Ms. Raymond’s class celebrated the “100th Day of School” with a party last week. My daughter then wondered whether her class would also celebrate the “200th Day of School” (party girl, it seems). We wrote a note to ask Ms. Raymond this question. Ms. Raymond gave us a written response that same afternoon – even though she had her hands full dealing with a classroom full of 4 and 5 year olds.
As litigators, we often find ourselves unexpectedly busy with a few files that “explode” all at once. Inevitably I have found that this can lead to delayed response times to other clients’ communications. It seems obvious but in future, I plan to reply to the “non-priority” clients as soon as possible, if only to let them know that I have received their communication, and that I will respond shortly.
And perhaps, most importantly…in the spirit of Valentine’s Day…
- Smile. I asked my daughter what her favourite thing about her teacher was. Without a second thought, she said, “Ms. Raymond smiles a lot.”
With all due respect to the OBA campaign that seeks to remind lawyers of our “calling”, and without disputing that advocates have an important job, if Ms. Raymond can take the time to be pleasant while helping 38 struggling little hands put on 19 pairs of snow pants, I think we lawyers surely can, too.
Thanks for reading and happy Valentine’s day.
 Sadly, Ms. Raymond advised us that there is no “200th Day of School” party as there are only approximately 180-190 school days.