Lawyers are not well liked. I get it. From Shakespeare to Dickens, lawyers receive a lot of hate. We do find ways to comfort ourselves. On my first day of law school, the Dean told us a lawyer joke and encouraged us to collect lawyer jokes ourselves. I think the lesson was that we need to develop a self-deprecating sense of humor. Lawyers as a profession felt so badly about the hate we receive that we even created a little holiday for ourselves: Be Kind to Lawyers Day. That’s a real thing, here’s the link: https://bekindtolawyers.com/index.html. It’s interesting that a profession that is known for fighting for a living felt the need to tell society at large to be nice to us… at least for a day.
If you are dealing with a family law matter, you might not feel like being kind to anyone, lawyer or otherwise. Most of my clients come into their first consultation with me in a state of deep sadness, numbness, or anger. Sometimes people feel all three. All I can tell you is that this is normal, and that things will eventually get better. But making decisions when you are feeling this way is a challenge. One of the things that a good family law attorney will do for you is to provide emotional distance. While I have a great deal of empathy for my clients, I am not the one going through these difficulties myself. My goal is to help provide calm, in a situation which might be anything but calm. Sometimes when you are too close to a situation it is difficult to see it clearly and make the best decisions.
A good family law attorney will be able to analyze your situation and provide you with options based on their knowledge of the law and of what judges are likely to do in your situation. This enables you to make educated decisions.
Sometimes when people try to proceed without an attorney, they can make decisions which cannot be undone later. For example, in a divorce, the division of property is generally final as of the entry of the final order (called a Judgment and Decree). I have had people contact me after their divorce is finished, because they forgot to ask for a share of the other party’s retirement account or some other asset. Then, I have to share the difficult news that their window to ask for a share of those assets is now closed. Other times, people make decisions about custody and parenting time, that take into account only short-term considerations; without thinking about what decisions will need to be made in the future and if their current schedule will need to be changed. Planning for some of these long-term considerations up-front can often save people from having to return to court.
Despite being despised, family law attorneys do provide a valuable service. So, even if you don’t feel like being kind to us on the second Tuesday in April; don’t hesitate to call one of us. We’re not quite as terrible as people make us out to be.