I have been dealing with end of life and bereavement matters from a legal perspective for the last 10 years, and I believe that there is always scope for learning to be more compassionate when working with clients moving through a difficult time.
Over the years I have come to understand that people deal with death in different ways, but ultimately kind words and compassion when dealing with their loved ones and their own legal affairs can make a huge difference. Often clients have confided in me and discussed matters that they wouldn’t with anyone else.
Am I adequately equipped to deal with this? To date I have had no specialist training for lawyers working in this area and I believe that most lawyers muddle through doing the best that they can.
Dealing with clients facing a life limiting diagnosis or grieving for a lost relative brings its own challenges. We are acting in an emotionally charged environment and the consequences of our actions are amplified.
Time is often an issue – While a legal appointment has an agenda and a structure I find people struggling to come to terms with difficult issues appreciate being given a bit of time to proceed at their own pace.
Uncomplicated clear advice – I try to organise the legal advice with clarity and I often follow up with a letter detailing everything that has been discussed so that it can be considered when clients feel ready. I make sure I give out my contact details and invite them to call if they have any concerns or queries.
Information – There is a need to provide regular updates and progress on matters to give clients reassurance.
Kindness – I try to approach difficult situations with kindness and understanding and take time to see the person. Grief is expressed in different ways. Being on the front line I find that we are sometimes the focal point of any anger or aggression. This is understandable and it’s important to see this for what it is and be patient.
I’m always open to enhancing my skills in this area and think that the ‘Conference for Legal and Financial Professionals: Raising The Bar On Compassionate Communication’ at St Catherine’s is an excellent idea to better equip legal and financial professionals in dealing with end of life affairs. It will give professionals confidence in dealing with difficult conversations and to generally increase awareness of the issues clients may be facing.
The Conference for Legal and Financial Professionals: Raising The Bar On Compassionate Communication takes place on Friday 9th February 2018.