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With all due respect: A word of advice

With all due respect: A word of advice

By Law Institute Journal



Tact is often the most useful tool.

It will not have escaped the notice of WADR readers that we live in a world that is full of advice. We cannot escape it. Everywhere we turn someone, often unqualified, is telling us how to complete a task, how to succeed in love, career, parenting and just about everything else.

With social media, the internet and the ubiquity of lifestyle shows we are inundated with a daily torrent of guidance and recommendations. If someone wanted to encapsulate the trend they could write a book titled Life, For Dummies.

I’m not sure about you, dear reader, but your correspondent feels this assault on our ability to work out stuff for ourselves is exhausting and leads to us constantly second guess the way we live.

Some experts say you should only listen to your own advice but if this were the case your correspondent would eat more biscuits and spend more time lazing on the couch with a glass of wine in hand.  

Of course, not everyone is receptive to advice. Alice, as described by Lewis Carroll in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, generally gave herself very good advice, though she very seldom followed it.

Solicitors are in the advice game and know very well that not everyone is good at taking it. In the armoury of the good lawyer tact is often the most useful tool, as well as a thick skin and the ability to handle people who, as Jack Nicholson says in A Few Good Men, can’t handle the truth.

It requires solid professionalism and steely conviction to say no to a client and you also have to resist the temptation to say “oh, and where did you get your law degree?”.

Of course, advice has always existed and in the past it generally came from parents or teachers and we all learned things from proverbs and common sayings.

Proverbs taught us that people who live in glass houses should not throw stones. However, it is probably advisable to buy good curtains. And before you judge someone we were told to walk a mile in their shoes. You are then a mile away, you have their shoes and they’ll never catch you. Have I got that right?

If you are a parent it is difficult to stop yourself from giving advice and often a simple eye roll from a child is enough to make you wish you hadn’t bothered. If you can’t help yourself at least try to avoid stating the bleeding obvious.

My late mother gave me very few pieces of advice when I was growing up as I think she believed it was better to learn from mistakes, but she did tell me a couple of things that stuck.

One was “don’t touch what you can’t afford” and the other was “only go where you are invited”. Your correspondent wonders how many men caught out by the MeToo movement would have benefited from listening to my mum.

And remember, as comedian Steven Wright advised:”If at first you don’t succeed then skydiving isn’t for you”.

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