I started my legal career for a small firm back in 1985 working collection files on apartment evictions and vehicle repossession cases. I call those my kindergarten years where I learned everything about prelitigation demand letters, filing lawsuits, obtaining judgments, issuing pre and post judgment discovery and requesting writs for attaching any personal property I could get my hands upon. When I left that first firm, my managing partner told me he had never collected so much money on his client’s files in the history of the firm.
I remember one day sitting in that same managing partner’s office, his cowboy boot clad feet upon his desk (which was his customary position), when one of my favorite clients strolled into the office. She and her husband were the owners of a property management company which owned numerous apartments around Austin. She reminded me of Lady Bird Johnson; perfectly coiffed hairdo, always in a dress with pantyhose and heels, short-handled handbag held perfectly. On this particular day, she was on a mission. You see, she had a tenant who took off in the night, leaving the apartment in shambles and owing on his lease. She was upset we could not get him served. From her handbag, she pulled several Polaroids and handed them to my managing partner, telling him she thought these would assist the Constable in getting the tenant served. My managing partner grinned, then leaned over to hand them to me for the file. To my horror, they were self-portraits taken by the tenant, completely nude! I remember looking up at our client and she very coolly said, “I’m sure there will be no problem getting him served now.”
Almost 35 years later, this memory is still so vivid. It was an early lesson of handling yourself with grace and dignity, even in uncomfortable situations. For the years to come, I would interview hundreds of clients and witnesses over the phone and in person getting them ready for their depositions, hearings, or other case events. No matter what colorful language was used, I kept my calm and processed the information as needed. Fast forward through the years to the early 2000’s when I was working for my first record retrieval company and found myself, overnight, thrown into a role of Marketing and Sales. Like most, I had sold during my part-time jobs in High School, but never as part of my adult career. Who would have thought a Business Litigation Paralegal would find herself now in a role selling?
As would most of my sister and brother Paralegals, I read everything I could on how to sell so I could get it “just right”. In those early years, I attended a sales seminar which included the art of handshakes. It was quite intriguing since my form of greeting, at the time, always included a handshake or a hug. I learned about the power shake, the bone crusher shake, the wet fish shake, the boardroom shake, etc. There was also a lesson about body language, tonality, and reading the various signals to know whether the person you were engaging was being honest or was avoiding. After all those years of witness preparation, it was valuable information I wished I had before and certainly used in the years to come when interviewing potential hires, selling to new prospects, working with subcontractors, and hiring services for The Legal Connection.
Now, in the age of Covid and masks, it makes me wonder how that valuable information will be transformed. Handshakes will be a tradition of the past. The awareness of the eyes, tonality, and body language will increase. It will certainly change the way I conduct business. One thing is for sure, I will not miss some of those handshakes!
No matter the adornment, face mask or otherwise, a picture can be a message into the future. It captures your body language, the look in your eye, the surroundings of the event, and freezes the styles of the time. Now, electronic photographs also capture GPS coordinates and can even tell you who was behind the camera when the photograph was taken.
As a result, photographs are now valuable evidence to lawsuits, criminal investigations, car wrecks, insurance fraud cases, family law cases, and recreating history for genealogy. Should you find yourself in need of any type of evidence, be it electronic, photographic, paper, or otherwise, give TLC a call. We can help with your party and third-party subpoenas, electronic evidence, and even your forensic investigation of that evidence. Our specialties are banking,
In closing, this story is a gentle reminder to keep your cool in difficult situations, be aware of what your other forms of communication are telling people, and, most importantly, a photograph never goes away!