On Daniel Bryan, and What We Can Learn About Client Service

It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I’m an avid WWE fan.  I’ve been that way for most of my adult life, working through a love/hate relationship with the product and its performers.  Recently, though, I’m getting soured on their product, and it’s because of the WWE’s lack of attention to the biggest base it’s got–the fans.

Daniel Bryan is unquestionably the most “over” performer in the WWE right now.  He is a smaller, pasty bearded fellow who spent most of his life wrestling in high school gyms and independent promotions before making it to the big stage in WWE.  When the former “American Dragon” made it after years of toiling in smaller shows, he was thrust into NXT, a pseudo-“reality” show that saw him get buried by announcers and other talent on a weekly basis.  The announce staff was even told publicly to make fun of the “internet warriors” who loved guys like Daniel Bryan.  He was their whipping boy, and Bryan took it in stride.

Not one to give up, Bryan continued to do whatever management told him.  He put in the hours and launched himself full force into every storyline the company placed him in.  And the fans took notice.  His signature “Yes! Yes! Yes!” chants are now being heard at OTHER sporting events across the country, and chants of his name continue to drown out other segments on Monday Night RAW.

So what does the WWE top brass do when crowds clamor to see Daniel Bryan?  Do they put the world title on him?  Do they give him a high profile spot with main event status?  No.  They bury him, and they put him in mid-card matches with talent to “enhance” younger performers.  This was clearest during Sunday’s “Royal Rumble” match, when Daniel Bryan wasn’t even given a spot in the thirty man over the top rope battle royal which caps the event each year.  By entrant twenty-five, chants for Daniel Bryan were deafening.  When number thirty made his entrance, and it wasn’t Daniel Bryan, the crowds began booing.  The win, and the main event guarantee at Wrestlemania 30 in New Orleans, went to a personal friend of the COO’s who returned to the ring after a four year absence.  In true “bad guy” fashion, the COO taunted crowds in Cleveland the next night, asking in a voice one would use with a baby “Aww, did someone not get what they wanted?”

That statement’s stuck with me quite a bit this week.  We as attorneys or other professionals in the legal field are told we must “zealously advocate” for the client, and yet we are also told we must give deference to the client’s wishes.  Sometimes these interests conflict.  Where we go from there is up to the attorney, but I would humbly suggest that as long as the matter isn’t going to grievously harm the client’s interests, we defer to the client.  We must listen to their chants of “Yes! Yes! Yes!” and “No! No! No!” as much as possible.  This “zealous deference to client wishes” is a major portion of what makes up client service.  When we put our interests aside, and we tell the client “You are the boss,” they don’t have a love-hate relationship with us.  They come back for future service.  They feel their interests are validated.  They think “this attorney understands me.”

When we do need to go against the client’s wishes, we should take them aside and explain WHY a particular course of action isn’t best for him or her.  We should tell them strongly that a course is better, and explain that we think it in their best interests to follow their advice.  We should NOT just unilaterally act against the client, as this is akin to asking the client in a baby voice “Did somebody not get what they want?”

I’ve recently seen an example of this in a divorce case where a client had instructed opposing counsel the house payment was to be split 50/50 between husband and wife, and the opposing counsel completely ignored this suggestion.  The MDA sent to the other side showed the wife paying 100% of the house payment until the house was sold.  If I’m the attorney drafting documents this way, alarm bells are being set off in my head as soon as the draft gets out the door.  I have problems where I have to call the client and tell him or her that this is something they need, whether they like it or not, and they have to live with my decision.

No, I’d rather give the client the benefit of the doubt, and tell them “I think this is a mistake.  Know we’re working on getting you the best deal possible for the purposes of this agreement, and I think that’s why we need to ask for the other party to pay 100% of the house payment until such time as they come back with a counter offer.  By doing this we could eliminate part of your potential debt, and we won’t know until we ask what the other party is willing to take.”  This option gives the client the choice, it gives them the ability to reject or accept the potential proposal, and it makes the client think the attorney is willing to listen and defer for their hard-earned money, but also able to educate as necessary.

Don’t make the decision to be a Triple H and suborn your interests for the client.  Educate, inform, and when in doubt, always listen to your client’s chants of “Yes! Yes! Yes!”

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