published January 30, 2021

By Maria Laus, Author - LawCrossing

The Focus Should Always Be on the Client

How to Hire a Lateral Attorney

What is ‘CYA’?
Again, ‘CYA’ is an abbreviation for ‘cover your ass.’ In other words, this is what someone will do to get themselves out of trouble. They do something that will protect them and ensure they are not subject to any criticism for what happened and make sure there are no bad consequences. Think about it as an action that is going to act as insurance if someone comes knocking. It is a way to be untouchable, and it can mean you knowingly do something wrong to not be blamed.
This type of attitude we are talking about can occur in everyday life and in all industries. Indeed, it often happens in the legal industry. It can take on a different name that you may have heard. For instance, if you have experience or know someone that words in the medical field, it can be ‘defensive medicine.’ Again, it is the idea that you are protecting yourself, and you cannot be blamed when there are malpractice claims.
When it Makes Sense
There are times when covering your back makes sense. In particular, those professionals in the legal world will know that sometimes, you have to be defensive and prepared for bad consequences. There are always going to be people that try to attack you when something goes wrong. Therefore, it can make sense to have records and everything in place in case things go south. But this should only be when it is necessary, and an attorney has done their job. CYA should not be about trying to look good in front of the boss or about taking the easy way out.
The Problem with This Attitude
There is no doubt that many attorneys will admit to acting similarly at least once in their career. After all, lawyers are just like everyone else and can get scared of being accused of malpractice. Doing something wrong could result in losing their job and the career they have spent years building. Indeed, this is why they cover their actions somehow, whether this is having a witness present or having everything down in writing.

The problem with having this type of attitude is that you focus on yourself more than the clients you are serving. In other words, you care about your career and put that before helping others and doing your duties. Clients are not being protected how they should be, and this attitude is getting in the way.
But there is also something else to consider when we are talking about CYA. Often, lawyers are forced to do what their client wants. We mean clients are determined to pursue a claim and go down a certain route even though it will have a negative outcome for them. Lawyers know this but are forced to follow their instructions and do not want to contradict their clients. So, they take the easy way out and sometimes the only way out.
The problem is that too many people are happy to take the easy way out. They want to pursue whatever is going to make their job easier. Often, this is merely going down the route of covering up their actions and having a defense if something goes wrong. Nobody is prepared to go that extra mile.
Ways to Make a Client the Priority
In the legal industry, there should always be concentration on the client. Attorneys and associates must start making the client the priority and making sure they have a great legal experience. There has been a lot of concentration on personal gain, which is where CYA attitudes have thrived. But there are ways you can make a client the priority and steer away from this negative behavior once and for all. Let’s take a closer look.
Try to Solve Problems
There are going to be times when you are aware of problems before they exist. Instead of standing back and concentrating on CYA, try to be proactive. This will put your clients first, and it might help to diminish the fallout later. Therefore, try to solve the problem if you can. This will be doing your job, and if the client is aware you are doing this, they will appreciate your help. Even if you cannot solve the problem completely, put yourself in the other person’s shoes and do your best. Try to give the quality of legal service you would want to receive.
Manage Expectations
We find that managing expectations are a good way of prioritizing your clients. Often, especially in the legal industry, clients assume that they will always get the result they want when they have a lawyer by their side. People can have an inflated idea of what a lawyer can achieve in a case. In other words, clients always assume that a lawyer can get them out of trouble or win them money.
Of course, if you are an experienced attorney, you know that this is not always the case. Sometimes, it does not matter how talented you are or how much experience you have; some clients cannot be helped. They can have unrealistic expectations that they are going to get what they want. When they do not achieve and get the result they wish to, problems occur. Indeed, this is when lawyers have to start preparing for a case to backfire on them even though they have done everything they could.
Is there a way to avoid this? We believe so. By managing expectations from the beginning, you might help avoid negative consequences that require you to protect yourself. This includes being transparent with your clients and showing honesty. If things could turn out the opposite way of what they are expecting, let them know this. Keep regular communication with them and do not encourage false hope. Be authentic and be clear about what your job is and what you can achieve in their case.
Go the Extra Mile
A lot of people are simply going to work and doing the minimum amount of work possible. Indeed, this can happen in the legal industry. But where does the satisfaction of this come from? Perhaps it is time to try going the extra mile for your clients to see how this makes you feel. You can get the satisfaction of knowing you are doing your job to the best of your ability and that you are trying to do the right thing.
Again, going that extra mile can also help things going wrong. If a client knows you are working to the best of your ability, they might have fewer negative things to say afterward. Even if things still go wrong, you know you have done your best and not just tried to cover your back. While we know that legal professionals already have extended hours and a lot of stress to deal with, going the extra mile for your clients can feel good for you.
Ask for Help
Sometimes, it is important to recognize when you need help. Even if you have a lot of experience as a legal professional, this does not stop hard cases from coming your way. The best thing you can do is ask for help. In other words, talk to your colleagues and bosses about the problems that could arise. There may be something that they can do to stop it from happening or to prevent further issues from occurring in the future. Thus, do not be afraid to ask for help. It does not mean you are out of your depth; it just means you are being responsible and putting your client first.

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