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Against People-Pleasing: Why Lawyers Should Be Hardcore

By William Vogeler, Esq. on November 21, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Troubling the leaders of his day with questions, Socrates was the gadfly of Athens.

So said Plato, his student and chronicler of his trial. Of course, Socrates accepted a death sentence for his self-appointed role in society.

Today, lawyers are taught the Socratic method of asking questions. And sometimes, they have to be painfully hardcore about it. While lawyers often try to downplay this part of their career, maybe they should embrace it.

Not People-Pleasing

Attorneys have a role in society, and generally it is not to please others -- except perhaps, if it is to "please the court."

In counseling clients, it means that we have to be straightforward. They may not want to hear it, but that's our job.

"Have you ever stifled your disagreement in a meeting because you didn't want people to think you were being difficult or shrill?" asks life coach Kara Loewentheil.

If we are focused on pleasing others, it's as if we have lost our voice. Loewentheil says attorneys -- especially women lawyers -- struggle with people-pleasing.

Ask Tough Questions

Civility in law practice is an equalizing attribute, but somebody has to do society's dirty work. That often falls to attorneys -- prosecutors, criminal lawyers, insurance defense counsel, etc.

In the courtroom, asking tough questions is an art. Lawyers have to push the right buttons without looking like bullies because juries often sympathize with witnesses.

"So as an attorney you need to anticipate this and try and figure out a way to get the jury to turn on the witness -- that is come to a belief that they can't trust the person," attorney Tre Critelli told Business Insider.

Fair or not, lawyers often have a reputation for being arrogant, aggressive jerks. Perhaps, that's because sometimes they have to be the bad guy.

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