Family Law and Family Law lawyers

When people hire a divorce lawyer they are getting not only a strong advocate for their legal position but they should also be getting impartial legal advice regarding their stated goals.

The practice of Family Law is hard legal work.  I have often said it is some of the hardest legal work we do as lawyers, at many different levels.  Lawyers are human (yes, seriously, we are!) and we bring all our foibles and complexes to our work, just like everyone else.  What is different with Family Law lawyers is the nature of the legal work.  It is unlike anything in our legal system.

I have noticed during these past 30 years of my law practice that some of the most aggressive and difficult Family Law lawyers with whom I work have also had a difficult or simply terrible childhood.  In many cases, these lawyers become personally invested in their clients cause and, as a result, lose all objectivity. The ultimate result is always bad for the client.  It’s called transference, or simply bad lawyering, and we all get caught up in it at times.

I know this from my own personal experience.  I have learned that I can not do custody litigation and retain my objectivity, at least right now. Issues from my childhood have caused me in the past to write and say things to my colleagues that were neither appropriate nor helpful to my client’s legal position. I have learned to stay away from custody litigation- not just for my own mental health, but for the best legal interest of my client.  While this has certainly effected my “bottom line”, I think I may live a little longer and have more enjoyment in my life- and my clients may be better served!

The endless, grinding, never ending achievement culture of America has caused many Family Law lawyers to feel they need to take every case they can and bill it until someone cries “Uncle”.  This causes many Family Law lawyers to take a case that they should avoid because it will likely stir up unresolved emotional trauma that has been laying dormant for years.  

So what to do?  I try to be conscious of my complexes and how they effect my representation of my client.  Family Law lawyers who, in a moment of quiet reflection, admit that they are unable to keep their personal issues at bay should simply find litigation counsel to whom they can transfer the case should it fail to resolve in mediation.

Another remedy is to offer pre-litigation, non adversarial, dispute resolution processes, such as collaborative or cooperative law or mediation.  In a collaborative or cooperative case other professionals, such as parenting coaches/coordinators, may be more qualified than a trial lawyer to assist a family in creating a parenting plan, thus keeping a trial lawyers issues in “remission”.

As lawyers the work we do, especially in Family Law, has an effect on our community.  We are all connected and, as such, we lawyers have a responsibility to take the high road and counsel our clients in a clear, conscious and ethical way.

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