Ask Attorney Jennifer B.: How Can Divorce Attorneys Emotionally Prepare & Recover?
We divorce lawyers are accustomed to our non-family lawyer colleagues being astounded when we relay to them our area of specialty. Most frequently they comment that they would never want to practice family law. On occasion we are regaled with a story of the one divorce they handled in their career, and from that, they vowed never to handle another divorce again.
The reaction that we often face is most often due to the highly emotional nature of matrimonial cases. We are tasked with helping people through one of the worst times of their lives. And when children are brought into the mix the emotional quotient exponentially increases. It is true that being a divorce lawyer requires a certain ability to contend with emotional issues as well as legal issues. Divorce lawyers need to be sensitive to the emotional impact that clients are experiencing. While we need to remain calm and level headed to professionally advise our clients and achieve the best results possible for them, we cannot help but experience an impact from the emotions that we deal with on a daily basis.
So how do divorce attorneys handle the emotions of a divorce/custody case and remain the steadfast advocate that clients need to guide them through this difficult process. Some of the following steps may prove helpful:
- Remain Cool, Calm and Collected – When clients are highly emotional and are experiencing chaos related to their matter, it is a natural reaction to feel similarly outraged and upset as their advocate. Some divorce lawyers make the mistake of adopting their client’s emotions in their advocacy, but this usually backfires. While clients may be justified in acting emotionally at this very difficult time, a lawyer is much more effective when he or she remains cool, calm and collected in response to whatever is happening in the case. Remaining cool in the face of a highly emotional matter also allows the lawyer to think rationally and consider the various outcomes of each prospective action. Mostly, it allows the lawyer to provide sound advice and guidance at a time when everything the client is experiencing feels irrational. Moreover, the lawyer reacting emotionally only serves to create more chaos and upset and often prevents the matter from moving along so as to achieve the client’s ultimate goal which is resolution;
- Act As A Counselor – Lawyers are not only advocates for their clients, they are also meant to counsel clients. If the lawyer is not able to keep his or her emotions in check, they cannot properly serve in the role of counselor. A lawyer needs to be able to think objectively about a problem and give the client solid advice. We cannot accomplish this if we are swept away in the emotions of the case;
- Understand Our Role – it is human nature to want to empathize with others and try to imagine ourselves in their shoes. Clients entrust us with the most private details of their personal lives, and through working with them, we understand and feel their pain. These feelings and responsibilities make us passionate advocates, but to serve our client’s properly, we need to maintain our professionalism and help them to see all aspects of the situation so that we can best guide them through it.
- Recharge – Being a divorce lawyer is an emotionally draining profession. Sometimes it feels like we have the weight of the world on our backs, and it is the nature of the profession to frequently be on call 24/7. For our own sanity and to be an even better lawyer for our clients, it is necessary for us to mind our own health and to take time out to recharge. Although we live in a world where people expect us to respond immediately, it is important to let clients know from the outset that there are times(such as nights/weekends/vacations) when we will be unavailable, but we will be sure to attend to their needs upon our return. Setting boundaries for our own sanity will be acceptable to most clients and will further ensure our longevity in this work.
Many lawyers refuse to handle matrimonial cases because of the high stakes and heavy emotions involved. Those of us who do practice in this area understand that the emotional aspect is part and parcel of the matter. We also know that despite this, there is great reward in helping someone through these challenging issues.
With more than 25 years of experience in the industry, Jennifer Brandt’s practice includes all aspects of family law including divorce, custody, support, alimony, adoption, and guardianship matters in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey. In addition to family law litigation, she also negotiates prenuptial, post-nuptial and cohabitation agreements on behalf of clients. In addition to her busy practice, she’s a well-known legal commentator on national news networks including CNN, CNN Headline News, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, ABC News, Court TV and local and regional television and radio.
If you have a family law issue or would like me to speak about legal issues, you can connect with Ms. Brandt at www.cozen.com.