On Experience

What is the value of experience?

Attorneys licensed to practice law for several years routinely cite their experience as a principal qualification for representing clients today.  Not to be outdone, firms of multiple attorneys commonly add up their combined years of practice to come up with a grand total of several decades of experience to trump the claims of long-term solo practitioners.  

Are these claims reliable indicators of success in your particular case? 

Claims of experience can suggest more than they reveal.  In fact, instead of being a reliable guide, claims of experience can fool us.[1]  Indeed, Proverbs reminds us not of the value of mere experience, but of the importance of wisdom.  “Get wisdom.  [A]nd whatever else you get, get insight.”[2] 

An attorney’s interpretation of the importance of his or her own experience is biased, and so can lead to a misguided interpretation of insights and best practices.  Attorneys who have been practicing “successfully” for many years may not have been practicing wisely, mistakenly pursuing less efficient, less effective, and less satisfying means to defend and advocate their clients’ best interests. 

Some, accustomed over the years more to talking than to listening, may not even know how to hear and discover the wisdom necessary to guide their clients to identify their own best legal interests. 

To be wise, an attorney needs to listen and reflect – not on the sound of his or her own voice, but to your voice.  He needs to hear and reflect patiently on your story.  He needs to hear and learn from your version of the incident.  To wisely defend you, he needs to see, feel, and understand through your own eyes.   

More than he needs experience to help you, your attorney needs wisdom and insight.



[1] Fooled by Experience, Soyer and Hogarth, Harvard Business Review, May 2015; https://hbr.org/2015/05/fooled-by-experience
[2] The New Oxford Annotated Bible, Proverbs 4:5-7.