The 3 Best Ways to Manage Your Legal Crisis
In my role as an attorney, the first interaction with a client usually takes place when the client is encountering a crisis. The crisis may have been building for months, such as the final break down of a business or an acute crisis that happens suddenly, such as an arrest or job termination.
In each instance, a person is confronted with the need to take action while under extreme stress. The ability to make swift decisions that may have long term consequences on a career, finances or family is a difficult task.
It is not uncommon for people to express guilt and shame about their current circumstances. Potential clients may make such statements as, “…I should have planned… I’m so stupid… or… I deserve what I get…”
However, remaining in a state of prolonged shame or guilt with fearful ruminating thoughts only clouds one’s judgment. In fact, this state of mind impedes the goal of working with your attorney to create sustainable solutions.
Admittedly, some crises just happen, we have no control over the event and no ability to forecast the time or place that the crisis will show up. However, once the crisis is at your door, three steps will allow you to:
- Course correct
- Ride out the storm; and
- Eventually accept your new normal.
Step 1: Triage – “Stop the Bleeding”
A client from several years ago was arrested for a serious felony offense. Any encounter with the police or prosecuting officials will be stressful due to the fact that these meetings are not part of a person’s daily routine. However, what further complicated that client’s circumstances was the inability of the family to locate their loved one within the mass and complicated New York City prison system.
New York City is home to the notoriously violent Riker’s Island Correctional Facility and the client’s family was understandably upset at the thought that their family member was somewhere unaccounted for within Riker’s Island or another prison facility.
So when a crisis is unfolding, it is essential to:
- NOT use excessive amounts of time and energy expressing anger or remorse you will deplete emotional resources;
- NOT speak with or make statements to the police, prosecutor or other government officials, except under specific circumstances (i.e. you are the victim of a crime);
- Process the legal crisis moment by moment – do not leap ahead to untold FUTURE horrors;
- Take several moments to ground yourself every time you feel the WAVE OF TERROR that accompanies a crisis;
- One way to ground yourself is to engage in the familiar: grab pen and paper and begin to write down pertinent information such as dates of birth, addresses, important dates or times related to the incident; or names of eye and/or ear witnesses;
- Call and speak with an attorney.
Step 2 – Tap into Your Inherent Power
A crisis has the tendency of making you feel powerless. A crisis will strip you down to the core of your thoughts and beliefs. When confronted with crisis you may believe that you need saving or someone must get you out of this mess. However, once you have digested the initial shock, move away from thoughts of helplessness to the more authentic belief that you truly have everything you need inside.
- Do not dwell on thoughts or stories that you are helpless or need to be saved; these thoughts will hamper your ability to think critically, ask questions, and remain calm;
- Believe in your inner strength and you will be better prepared to listen, hear inconsistent or false information and thus protect yourself;
- Know that you are not powerless; instead tap into the inner intelligence that is inherent in all of us.
Step 3 - Gradual but Ultimate Acceptance
Deportation, criminal indictment or having your finances threatened are all impactful life events. The natural human reaction to crisis is to deny or resist the unwelcome change.
Your resistance may come in the form of hysteria, negative thoughts, or lashing out at others. To resist a crisis or deny its existence will only exacerbate your suffering.
In every life some type of unwanted event will occur. When confronted with crisis use your remaining energy to:
- Resist the urge to blame – it will waste emotional energy;
- Be especially kind to yourself;
- Permit time to grieve the loss caused by the crisis; and then
- Remind yourself, constantly, that you are intelligent.
If you found these tips helpful, please share them with someone going through a crisis.
All names and facts have been changed, concealed and kept confidential to protect client privacy. No part of this content or writing shall be construed as legal advice or legal counsel. No part of this writing shall solicit or serve as a request to form an attorney client relationship.