Leading with Empathy - Step #7
As the courts get busier and busier, judges and prosecutors focus more on volume and outcomes rather than the process. There is no time to spend time learning about the human behind the name and charge, it's all about processing the case like an assembly line.
This repetitive work leads to the power brokers of the case to avoid applying individual consideration to a client's file. This is micromanaging of the docket, and quite toxic if something doesn’t shift for a client.
Potentially one of the most significant moments in a client's life is a piece of paper to a judge and prosecutor, and that approach lacks vision. In order to create the collective good in society, we need to take a step back and have vision of the entire process; we do this in our daily life but tend to overlook it at the courthouse because things are messy, loud and busy.
It doesn't help the client's position that they are viewed as the troublemaker and essentially now added to the massive workload of the court. A judge and prosecutor will never acknowledge this mindset, and it doesn't make them bad folks; I too was a busy prosecutor and started my career with this same mindset.
I used this experience to create a different approach and mindset for my clients; I've examined this process for almost two decades and I always see the same cracks, gaps and imperfections, but I have also learned how to find vision and beauty in the process if we approach the case with a different mindset.
This takes disciplined reflection, and something that only comes from many years spent working with prosecutors, judges, police officers and probation staffs. In this repetitive process, I have learned the ins and outs and how to leverage the system for my clients; best of all, nobody else takes this approach so my clients have a first adopter benefit. This means that your case stands out in a good way when presented in this way to the key players in your case.
In order to make an impact in the case, we need to inspire others to adopt our mindset; this means identifying the "bread and salt" of your life. This term comes from Gandhi, and how he inspired millions with something unusual, meaningful and shared vision; he talked about the real India, and your case is about the real you, not the name on a piece of paper with criminal charges.
The bread and salt are what you need to survive the case; this means staying out of jail to keep your job, the ability to drive to get to work, and drive your kids around; the ability not to lose your career over a criminal conviction. More importantly, it's what you need to learn from this, so it doesn't happen again.
We need to present this vision to the power brokers in the case; it needs to be effective and influential and must reflect the insights and core issues of your life. Unfortunately, the typical judge and prosecutor are hindered by their years of experience in the process; they speak more than listen, and view their job as quantity, and not quality of interaction.
Most judges and prosecutors are top-down participants who simply tell people what to do and make judgments on situations they do not understand. What if these folks focused on meaningful change and understood the bread and salt of each case; how do we activate a plan to help this person?
This is a bottom-up process where the authority leads but put that power aside and they ask the right questions and listen to the responses. This would provide input and insights which can then be scaled across the entire process. Because this new vision is rooted in the involvement of the client it resonates with them and they readily accept the vision.
For a client to view a prosecutor and judge as an asset in their life, and for the court process to be more supportive than detrimental would alleviate the quantity issue over time, because less people would return with cases.
Real life example of inspiring and motivation
When a court interacts with a first offender, the optimal path would be to figure out why someone suddenly found themselves on the wrong side of the law. People don't appear in court because they don’t know right from wrong, rather they made a decision that was impacted by their mental and emotional well-being; it may have been a calculated risk or a desperate calling out for help.
The first step is having this client work with a mental health professional to get a baseline on current state; to learn what's presently going on, and to discuss the case in a safe and judgment free zone. From that the client may engage in education, insight or counseling at varying levels. We are not seeking excuses or defenses in this part of the case; we are searching for deep understanding of the WHY.
Once we understand WHY the case happened, we put a proactive program in place and begin to solve the issue on our own; this can shift the mindset of a prosecutor and judge from punishment to progress. If a client has already identified the reason the case happened, and they are working on the problem, there is no longer a reason to punish and further harm my client.