I was recently listening to an episode of Without Fail called “The Tragedy Expert.” Kenneth Feinberg talks about how he has become the expert in administering funds that are distributed to victims and families of tragic events like 9/11, or the Newtown shoot, or the Boston Marathon bombing. He talks about becoming an expert, but that each case is unique and has to be handled like it is the most important case he’s ever handled before. The show’s host, Alex Blumberg, asks Feinberg if having gone through these cases so many times, does he feel like he’s the expert and can give some type of guidance because he is an expert at what he does. I really liked his response.
Absolutely not. It’s as if it’s the first time I’ve ever done one of these. Be careful about confusing the substantive terms and conditions of the program, where we’ll build on what we’ve done before, from the emotional response of victims and myself, to the individual cry that comes from the victim.
In other words, it doesn’t matter how well you know your topic, if you can’t apply it to the specific situation you are currently handling. You have to engage with the client, who may be going through one of the most important (and expensive) events in their lives.