Your divorce lawyer may be totally stressed out, and why you should care

High conflict divorce cases take an emotional and financial toll on the litigants, and repeated exposure to these kinds of cases also has a serious impact on the cognitive functioning ability of your divorce lawyer. 

You think you have the best (i.e. most expensive) divorce lawyer in the area. Her reputation is unparalleled and she is a member of all the “right” legal organizations. But she is hard to reach and when you are able to speak with her, she seems to be unfocused and not familiar with the facts of your case. The litigation against your spouse has been going on for months, the legal costs are now in the 10’s of thousands of dollars and there seems to be no game plan or end in sight. What’s going on?

In a period of 18 months, 6 South Carolina lawyers have committed suicide. The level of depression and substance abuse with lawyers is one of the highest among all professionals. But why should you care? You just want to kick your spouse’s @#$% to “get even” for all the abuse you suffered during the marriage. Who cares if your lawyer is suffering emotionally? After all, you’re paying good money to a well regarded divorce lawyer and have been told that you have a “good case”.

But things seems a little “off kilter”. Your lawyer has a hard time remembering the major details of your case and focusing on the task at hand. She tells you that she has been busy with “other pressing matters” but you’re not feeling so confident anymore. It is likely that your lawyer is suffering from depression and burnout which will very likely have a major impact in the litigation of your case.

Our “working memory” is kind of like the RAM in our computers. We use our working memory to focus on the task at hand and make clear, rational decisions about how to deal with the facts before us. Individuals with depression have a very difficult time “expelling negative cognitions and memories from their working memories and pay attention to the cognitive tasks at hand”. Yikes!

What this means is that your divorce lawyer may be cognitively impaired and unable to make clear decisions based upon the facts before her. Her advice to you will be colored by her negative thoughts and memories that are being applied to the facts of your case. As a result you will not be getting the clear, objective and unbiased counsel for which you have paid.

Several years ago I had a case against an attorney notorious for his cynicism and bad attitude. The kind of person who responds to a “Hi, how are you?” with “Another day in paradise”! He had filed a case for divorce on behalf of wife and requested an emergency hearing regarding custody and alimony. The facts of the case did not warrant an emergency hearing, much less the filing of a lawsuit, as husband was living in Hawaii and only visited his family 4 times per year.

We caught the wife lying to the court at the emergency hearing. She lost custody of the kids, had to move out of the house and was denied spousal support – 2 days before Christmas!  I believe that wife’s lawyer is chronically depressed and as a result gave her bad legal advice. He was unable to evaluate his client’s claims objectively and provide her with rational and sound counsel, and as a result did her a great disservice. Had this lawyer’s thinking not been influenced by his negativity, he may have been able to handle the matter differently, avoiding unnecessary litigation and the loss of his client’s home and custody of her kids.

A depressed lawyer is not only a danger to his or herself. A depressed lawyer is cognitively impaired and will not provide you with the objective legal advice for which you are paying.

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