What I learned by being the client instead of the attorney

Have you ever wondered what it is like for the attorney to actually be the client?

Well, wonder no longer:  In 2010, I had the opportunity to shift into the role of client.

Check out my story below and what I learned that will help me be a better attorney.

A few years ago we adopted our youngest son David. Part of the process was going through the court system to make the adoption legal. Although I had done a few adoptions in the past, we decided to hire an attorney who did a lot of adoptions (plus that saying about “the attorney who represents himself has a fool for a client” was coursing through my mind). We ended up hiring an attorney whose practice-focus was adoption and related areas.

The experience was fairly smmooth and we ended up where needed to be: with a final decree of adoption and David legally as our son. As I think back on the process which started almost two years ago, I realize I got to see things from a totally different perpsective: the client’s. What did I learn?

1. A roadmap is important. Most clients know the destination but have no idea what the journey will be like. Although I had knowledge of the adoption process, we needed to hear from our attorney what the steps woud be and how long it would take. A roadmap, some guide post or markers of significant events in the process is helpful and lowers everyone’s anxiety.

2. There is some degree of helplessness. For the most part, the attorney is in control of all the meaningful information and knowledge about the case. How the process works, how it is actually working in our case, whether new events are expected or unexpected and what impact they will have on the case. The client often knows none of this, but wants and needs to know.

3. A fixed and clear fee agreement is nice. This is point about which I was well aware, but it was reinforced in our adoption of David. In any case, but particularly in an adoption case where the parents have probably already spent large sums of money, knowing the costs is critical. If the exact costs cannot be determine at the beginning of the case, then the method for determining costs needs to be clear and regular updates should be provided. We were fortunate in our adoption case because the attorney we used offered all of his services for a flat fee.

What type of things have attorneys done for you that improved your experience with them? Let me know in the comments.

For more Oklahoma business law tips, sign up for the email list below.

Posted by Shawn Roberts

On this blog, I write about and try to answer practical Oklahoma legal questions. My focus and most experience is in estate planning and business issues including Oklahoma non-compete law. I make a living as an attorney in the law firm I founded, Shawn J. Roberts, P.C. in Oklahoma City. I live in Edmond with my wife Amy and my two children, Sam (19) and David (11). We live precisely in the path of where the "wind comes sweeping down the plains."


David has your smile…… He looks like he is fun to be around….. Enjoy it all. Being a dad is to me one of the most important jobs in the world.

Grace & Peace

Ed Martin

Shawn Roberts

Thank you Ed, David is really a blessing in our lives. You ar absolutely right about the importance of being a dad!