Whenever I tell people I am a divorce attorney I usually get one of two reactions. One, how can you stand being a divorce attorney? The second reaction is almost entirely different. Boy, I bet you have some interesting stories to tell? The constant and consistent barrage of these two questions has caused me to take some time to reflect on why I do what I do and what to do with the collective experience of representing hundreds of divorcing clients.
Why I do What I do
For almost 40 years I have exclusively practiced in the field of divorce and family law. As I look back now I can’t imagine a more interesting or rewarding endeavor. Law students and young lawyers have asked me the secret to success in this highly emotional and difficult field of law.
In the first instance, one of the keys to success is Preparation, preparation and more preparation. Confidence in the courtroom or the boardroom comes from preparation. I was always more prepared than the other lawyer in the case.
The next important key is Empathy – understanding where the client is in their life, why they are acting the way they are and helping them get to a different and better place. In my practice, it is critically important to be not just an attorney but also a Counsellor, the original name for those who practice law. Not in the therapeutic or treatment sense of the word but to counsel the clients who may not be able to see or know how to get through this terrible experience - to lead them to a better place.
Finally, I always tried to employ and use Humor in my regular dealings with people involved in this process. Not because there is anything funny about divorce (it is a challenging, sad and difficult experience for people immersed in such cases) but humor can be an effective tool. I used humor with my clients to lift them from the depths of despair or heartache – to suggest to the client there still can be lightness and laughter in your life and you can get there. I also used humor with my adversaries to disarm them or to break through to a different place where you can resolve issues rather than fight about them. And I used humor with the Judges and court staff to lighten the mood in the courtroom or to engage them in the case at hand.
The Compelling Stories
Turning to the next question about all of the experiences and stories that I have been a part of, it is true that when I share these stories people they think that I am making them up. These stories are compelling, dramatic, funny, zany, interesting and unbelievable. However, I did not simply want to be a “story teller” or “reporter” or “voyeur”. Since I have always enjoyed the role of teacher/educator/lecturer I thought to myself, what can I do with these stories? The answer is to use them as a platform to help people through the process of divorce - to help them achieve the best possible outcome in their case but also life ever after the divorce. All of this is captured in the book which I have written which is awaiting publication.