“Mommy, my taco broke,” shouts your four-year-old son. “Fix it.” It’s Tuesday Taco Night and from the look on your son’s face, things are about to get decidedly un-fiesta like, and fast.
You have a flashback to that afternoon, to the moment when the unruly client sitting across from you yelled, “You are my lawyer! Fix it.” Both as a parent and as a lawyer, you are supposed to be a miracle-worker. Fix everything or brace yourself for a tantrum.
Earlier, you tried to explain to your client, “I’m sorry, but the law is not on your side.” It didn’t work. Your client seemed on the verge of throwing a fit. You know the look. And so, when you tell your son, “I can’t put the taco back together,” you aren’t all that surprised to hear him scream back, “YES YOU CAN!”
OK, so how did you fix things with the client? To start, you asked for more facts. By rearranging the facts, you reasoned, you could make them fit the law to the client’s advantage. You tried, but it was useless. The facts just wouldn’t fit the law. But you refused to give up. “Mr. Smith, do not worry,” you declared. “We’ll do some research. I’m sure we can find another case that applies the law with a ‘flexible’ approach.” After doing the research, though, you still came up empty-handed. When you delivered the news, your client’s face went red, as smoke shot out of his ears. He shouted at you.
You had wanted to avoid this, but decided it was time to get the senior partner involved. Surely she would be able to manage your client’s expectations. As soon as she walked into the meeting, she said to the client, “You’ve got a great lawyer in your file. She will take good care of you. Got a problem? She will fix it.” With that, she turned around, walked out and shut the door. WHAT?! you thought. This is no time for compliments. Then, you did what you should have done from the start: stopped giving out false hope and stuck to hard truth. Eventually, the client, though unhappy, accepted reality.
Back to Tuesday Taco Night. Just like when you elicited more facts from your client to make them ‘fit’ the law, you get more toppings like salsa and cheese to ‘fit’ the taco. You hope this will distract your son from the broken taco shell but to no avail. Then you search the pantry, but can’t find another taco.
Next, similar to when you brought in the senior partner that afternoon, you call over Daddy, who just walked by. “Good, let him deal with this,” you think. “Daddy, my taco broke,” your son shouts hysterically. “Oh don’t worry,” he replies. “Your mom will fix it.” And he walks away.
As your son falls to the floor, arms flailing, you remember the solution that worked with your client: make him accept reality. And so you issue an ultimatum: “You either eat this broken taco or you’re having Monday’s Mystery Meat again!” In an instant, the crying stops. He eats the taco, broken shell and all.
Looks like your kid won’t be filing a parental negligence complaint with the grandparents after all.
Sharon Bauer is a partner at Fireman Steinmetz Daya LLP and Precedent’s parenting columnist. Follow the mother of two on Twitter at @SharonBauerLLB.
This story is from our Spring 2016 issue.
Illustration by Hudson Christie