BEING A FAMILY LAW LAWYER
By Brian Thomasson
I'm often asked "what is it like being a family law lawyer". Having done it for almost 20 years I've come to learn a lot. Being a family law lawyer, family law attorney or a divorce lawyer is not an easy job. To be honest with you - it's not for everyone or even every attorney.
Why? That's simple - you are dealing with people when they are most vulnerable and they are trusting you with the most intimate aspect of their life - the ability to parent their children, provide for their family, and, to be honest, a complete change in their life. It is hard; plain and simple. It is hard for the adults, it is hard for the children and it is hard for the lawyer (assuming that you are treated like a person and not like a file number or a paycheck). Your lawyer has to understand that it is stressful for you and it hurts. If your lawyer does not understand that then perhaps that lawyer is not the fit for you.
When I approach a case I see a puzzle. Most lawyers try to put your case or "fact pattern" into a box that is familiar to him or her so that they know how to approach the case. This makes things "familiar" and makes it easier for the lawyer to deal with. That's not the way it should be. Each divorce, custody, visitation matter, etc., is unique and there is no "one size fits all" approach. If you imagine it like a puzzle you start thinking that there are corner pieces, edges, or outlines that are more important than others. There are also pieces of sky and clouds that fit but are not as significant to the overall puzzle. They are relevant and necessary but things that should not be on the front burner. With this approach, you and your lawyer can have an overall plan for your situation and everyone knows what to focus on first. Whether it is seeing your children, paying your bills or making sure the electricity does not get cut off - those are the things that should be dealt with first. Infidelity, abuse, harassment and ridicule are also important and need to be handled. Who gets the lawnmower or the silverware, while necessary to deal with, are just not necessarily things that need to be dealt with first. Rightly or wrongly that is how I look at cases.
Compassion, understanding and patience are also important for a lawyer to have for his or her clients. I realize that while it is not my family under the microscope of lawyers and judges, that does not mean that your problems are less important than my own. We understand that you may be emotional and scared; that is why my office is here to listen and help. We don't care if you call once a day or once a month. Our motto is "call us if you need us" and we mean it.
The last thing that I want to talk about is appreciation. Given that this is the most personal aspect of your very existence, we appreciate that you have the trust in us to help. Going through a family law situation, a divorce, custody "battle" or visitation scenario is rough. The fact that our clients have put their faith in us to help guide them through it is not something that we take lightly and, most importantly, something that we do not forget.