While speaking with a severely disabled client recently, I realized, once again, just how important experience is. I had asked her a few days earlier to think about the ways her disability affected her. She spent a few days thinking about it, and then I interviewed her.
She had extreme difficulty explaining the ways her condition and multiple surgeries interfered with her normal activities of daily living. The “new normal” prevented her from explaining how her plight had disrupted the lives of her and her family. I knew off the top of my head the questions that needed to be asked, and in a half an hour we had a concise, if harrowing, description of the way her life had changed.
Twenty-five years ago, it would have taken me days to put this together because I simply would not have known the questions to ask. After years of talking to people and finding out the ways that their lives have been affected by misfortune, I know what they're going through. This kind of experience can't be taught to a young lawyer, no matter how hard you try.