Last year had you told that for much of 2020 I wouldn’t be able to invite clients into my office, I’d have begun pinching pennies and budgeting for a big financial hit. After all, nothing matters more in the estate planning process than interpersonal connection. I simply could not have imagined taking conversations that are at once complex and vulnerable online—at least not without losing that essential element of touch. Now more than six months into the Covid-19 pandemic, it turns out I’d have had little to worry about.
Don’t get me wrong. The moment we are living through is an awful tragedy. I mean only that taking estate planning to Zoom and signings to the parking lot hasn’t been all that bad. And it’s not because I’m some secret tech wizard. Trust me. I include a physical whiteboard in my Zoom sessions when the application has a built-in whiteboard feature and I phone-scan images of my doodles as if no one had ever invented the screenshot. Yes. For real.
The thing is, success in this digital moment that’s been thrust upon us isn’t about looking like a natural on fancy new platforms. It’s about providing an experience. After all, connections aren’t built on the basis of a shiny exterior; they’re built upon shared humanity. Your clients don’t care about seeing Zoom’s whiteboard or screen-share annotation feature (at least that’s what I tell myself). They care about seeing you.
An elder law attorney’s most important task is to make estate planning approachable. No one wants to think about death or debilitating illness and it’s a rare breed that gets excited about legalese. These barriers come down when you offer an organic, inviting experience. This means props and hand-drawn explanations; it means showing that you, yourself, are comfortable enough to slip up, go mute mid-sentence and laugh it off; it means trusting that your years of experience shine through no matter the medium.
Zoom also comes with advantages. Principle among them is the fact that folks can approach a difficult topic from the comfort of their own home. Here at the Estate Planning Law Group of Georgia, we extend that advantage by offering curbside signings. People feel at ease in their cars, after all, and we feel at ease knowing that our most-vulnerable clients are safe. Honestly, people love it but not only because it’s easy. Again, it’s the experience.
We march out in our masks and gloves, we set up a quarantine box, when it’s hot out we wear shorts and, frankly, the whole thing is hilarious. Politics are set aside by the humanity of the moment and what once was a laborious task is completed in minutes. There’s no office, no fancy lawyer desk, and no need to dress up. We embrace the process and our clients are led to do the same.
Time and time again, we’ve discovered that being personable is more important than being polished. It sounds simple and it is. And no doubt, in times like these, everyone could benefit from a little bit of simple humanity.
Each day, I remind myself that I’ve done this before. Years ago, I got through my first day on the job. Earlier this year, I stumbled through my first day on Zoom. What now is routine was once novel. If you’ve been able to get to where you are, you can also get through this moment. What matters most is that in so doing, you don’t lose yourself and your clients don’t lose you.
Contact Attorney James M. Miskell