» Clients, Practice in General, Prosecutors » Jerk or Chump?

Jerk or Chump?

I trust very few people to do their jobs competently; it’s the product of a wealth of experience watching people suck at the simplest of things. Indeed, it is often the simplest things that people mess up the most, and of all those things, few are simpler than doing what you say you’re going to do. If you don’t want to do it, don’t say you’ll do it. If you say you’ll do it, then go ahead and do it. It’s so easy, but it’s practically impossible for many.

A few months ago, I was dealing with a prosecutor for the first time, and she said she would run something by her boss and get back to me. As time passed, I figured she had either forgotten about talking to her boss or did speak with her boss but forgot to call me afterwards. That’s almost always what happens. I called to remind her several times and also sent her emails, with no response. When I finally did get through to her, she was upset. She felt insulted that I would dare suggest she forgot to do something she said she would do. She said her boss had been away but that he was getting back that very morning. She called me back within the hour with an answer.

It just so happened that my client probably shares my opinions about the competence of most people. He called me moments after I got off the phone with the prosecutor to see if I had any news. I explained to him that, after several attempts to contact her and success at long last, I finally got the answer we were waiting for moments earlier. My client was obviously skeptical. “Riiight,” I could imagine him thinking, “I am sure you miraculously just now got that answer, before I called you but so close to the same time you didn’t call first.” I wasn’t upset because I usually think the same thing. I did consider that I might want to give people the benefit of the doubt in the future, though a few more days dealing with rampant incompetence across the board handily drove that thought from my head.

More recently, I found myself in the same situation with the same prosecutor and a different client. The only difference was that, instead of having weeks to wait for her to run something by her boss, I only had that day. She said she would do it right away, so I waited. And waited. And waited. After a couple of hours passed, I started weighing my options. I waited a little longer, and still nothing. Finally, I called her direct line and she picked up. She at first started to show the same indignation from the last time I checked up on her progress, but then she realized she’d already gotten the answer from her boss. She relayed the information with a hint of attitude in search of something to be angry at me about, and then she hung up.

I think the lesson in all of this is two-fold. First, there’s no better way to waste a morning than by waiting around trusting people to follow through with what they say they’re going to do. Second, if you’re one of those people in the minority who follows through with what you say you’re going to do, don’t get pissed off when people harass you endlessly assuming you’re more like the majority. You, just like them, live in a world where most things become a game where you must choose between being the harassing jerk or the chump waiting around all day. Experience has taught me which is the better choice most of the time.

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