Monday, February 28, 2011

The Bucket List

Way back, when daughter was just a wee thing, I came across an article in the "Style" section of The Washington Post entitled, "50 Things To Do Before You Die."  This was way before the movie, The Bucket List, mind you.  I started to write....and found it incredibly hard to come up with 50 things for my list.  I don't know whether it was the pressure of coming up with something big or not seeming trivial, but it was hard. I don't think I actually reached 50.  It's all a matter of perspective, though, isn't it? I bet the Office Testosterone isn't having that kind of trouble.  These days, neither would I.  It's not that my standards have lowered, as much as I've come to realize that it's the little things that matter.  It's not as important that I learn to "cook Korean," as much as I learn to make one Korean dish.  You could sail the Caribbean, or simply take a sailing lesson.  So many of my clients spend so much time dwelling on past hurts and the petty annoyances that brought them to my office, that they forget the pleasure of the little things and of just living.  Start your own list - today.  What are you waiting for?

Friday, February 25, 2011


We got news better than winning a pair of Louboutins 
Hard to believe that's possible!


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Failure....Or Is It?

Today ended my first collaborative case that did not culminate in a durable agreement (For you naysayers, that means it fell out of collaboration).  Technically, that means it failed.  Or did it?  We've been in this case for about a year.  During that year, my client has clarified what she wants and needs in terms of parenting time and responsibilities and finances.  She has become a stronger person, more confident in the decisions she makes for herself and their children.  She has found her voice and has used the supports of the system to educate herself, move forward and grow as a person.  The process has also allowed her clarity of vision as to what went wrong with her marriage and why the collaborative process failed to end with an agreement.  She takes all of those tools with her to her new attorney, and they will serve her well in either reaching a negotiated settlement or at trial.  Failure?  I think not.

Again, please send your positive thoughts to our Office Testosterone.  We love him and he needs all the healing energy we can muster!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

What Does It Mean To Be A Lawyer?

law·yer  (lôyr)
One whose profession is to give legal advice and assistance to clients and represent them in court or in other legal matters.

[Middle English lauier, from lawlaw; see law.]

lawyer·ly adj.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

Of all the definitions I've found, this is probably the one I like the most.  That's not to say I like it, just that I like it the most.  Why is that?  I like that representation in court is the last part of the definition, not the first.  That's how it should be - court should be last.  If the family lawyer is doing her job, she is counseling and advising her client so that they can make the decisions necessary to get on with their lives and move forward.  The family lawyer also advocates for her client by supporting and promoting the client's interests after helping the client examine and determine those interests.  That's all hard work; in comparison, going to court is easy.

BTW, our office testosterone started chemo today.  Remember to send that positive energy his way.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Collaborative Divorce is a Fad?

Yesterday, a new potential client came in to see me.  She was really interested in collaborative divorce.  She thought all the supports collaborative provides would really help their family and help her and her spouse co-parent in a meaningful way.  The problem, she informed me, was that her spouse, who is the son of a prominent member of the local bar association, told her that collaborative divorce was "just a fad," and that it was "that new thing that nobody does."  Is there anything someone could say to make my blood boil hotter?  Nope.
This "fad" is conducting a training in Maryland next week.  Not just any training; this one is sponsored by the Administrative Office of the Court, and will be introduced by the Chief Judge of our highest appellate court.  This "fad" was just voted its own section of our local bar association.  The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers has a collaborative law section.  The Uniform Law Commission created the Uniform Collaborative Law Act for passage by state legislatures.  Three states have statutes governing collaborative law practice.  There are thousands of professionals trained in the practice worldwide.  A "fad"?  I think not.
I have a dream - that one day litigation will be considered alternative dispute resolution and not the default.

Monday, February 21, 2011


...and lots of it.  It comes from different sources, but right now, it's coming from every direction.  The question is how to cope.  To answer this question, I did some research (Read:  googled "stress", asked a friend, sat and thought).  This is what I discovered:

1.  First and foremost, take care of your self.  Not sleeping?  Go to bed a little earlier, take some Melatonin, have a warm bath, a cup of warm milk.  Read a book for pleasure before you go to bed.  Get off the electronics an hour or so before you sleep.  Not hungry?  Eat little meals with protein.  Have a few crackers with peanut butter, a handful of nuts, a cup of yogurt, some beans and rice.  Tired?  Take a walk, touch your toes, reach for the sky, do a few side bends.

2.  Ask for help.  We all have family and friends who care about us.  We all also hate to ask for help.  Remember, what goes around, comes around.  Your friends help you, you'll help them.  That's what we do when we care about others.  Sometimes, we need help from our bosses and professors.  They're people too - ask for help; they have a vested interest in seeing you succeed, because it makes them look good.  (Failing makes them look bad.) If push comes to shove, ask for professional help.  That's what the professionals do, and they do it well.  Humans are community animals - we need others to survive.

3.  Find better ways to cope.  See above.  Look, too, at how you deal with stress.  What works?  What doesn't?  If it doesn't, what might work better?  Time getting away from you?  Make a schedule.  Prioritize what's important.  If that all seems too much, see #2 above about professional help.  Sometimes, we all need it.

4.  Speak up for yourself.  Be proactive about what you need.  Not talking keeps the stress in and makes it worse.  It also leaves you alone with your negative thoughts, which tends to make them multiply.

5.  Change your way of thinking.  When you start to worry, ask whether it's about something you can change.  If the answer is "no," then let it go and learn to cope with it.

6.  Although it's the last thing you want, be around others.  Being alone is like not talking - it keeps the stress in and makes everything seem worse.

7.  Laugh.  Enough said.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Prayers and Positive Energy


 I know I don't usually blog on Sunday, but desperate times call for desperate measures.  Those of you have been reading this blog know about our office testosterone, in the form of my daughter's former boyfriend (Breaking Up Is Hard to Do).  You also might have guessed that those of us in the Trenches like him an awful lot, and think he's a really lovely young man (even if he isn't daughter's boyfriend anymore).  Well, he just found out he has cancer.  It's such a tough diagnosis for anyone, but especially for someone so young and healthy.  He starts treatment this week.  It's going to be rough going, with no guarantees.  Needless to say, it has thrown those of us in the Trenches for quite a loop.    The young man who brings so much positive energy to the Trenches needs all of our positive energy and prayers now.  As Mahatma Gandhi said:  " A man is but the product of his thoughts.  What he thinks, he becomes."  Please think of him and send him your positive thoughts and energy.

Saturday, February 19, 2011


The amount of work was overwhelming.

We worried about our friends and family.
We reconnected with old friends, and
left work early to enjoy an unseasonably warm day
Sometimes, you just have to play hookey!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Battle of the Wills

Two immovable forces.  Two stubborn mules.  A Mexican standoff.  All of those phrases describe today's mediation.  We are $2,500 apart.  Only $2,500 apart, and yet, we might as well be $100,000 apart.  Neither one of them is willing to budge.  Without somebody thinking outside the box, these people will spend far more than $2,500 asking a judge to make their decision for them.  Neither of them wants to be the one to give in, to lose face, to lose that last battle with their despised but once loved spouse.  What it really is, is that neither wants to let go.  Neither of them wants to be done with feeling wronged, with being the victim.  It all has to be the other's fault, and if they settle, they will be letting that go and have to move forward with their lives.  It's frightening, too frightening.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Asking for Help

is really hard.  You don't want to look stupid or needy.  You don't want to be in someone else's debt.  You don't trust that the help you get will be the help you need.  The list goes on and on. To be sure, sometimes you will look stupid, and you might not get the help you need.  More often, however, asking for help makes you look pretty smart - and brave.  That's right, smart.  That's because you're willing to admit to others that you don't know everything, that you don't have all the answers.  I also said "brave"; everyone else finds it hard to ask for help too.  Go ahead and ask for help.  Just don't forget to give help too.;)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day is a quiet day in a family law office.  Go figure.  Funny thing is, it is often quite busy afterward.  You'd be amazed at the number of people who choose Valentine's Day  to tell their spouse they are having an affair.  What about the people who decide to call it quits because their loved one didn't get them the right gift (again!), the right card (a funny one - really?), or any card at all?  Life and love are complicated enough without the pressure of a day devoted entirely to romance.  But is it really?  No, not really.

February 14 was celebrated in Roman times to honor Juno, the Goddess  of Women and Marriage, as a prelude to the Fertililty Festival of Lupercalla, which began on February 15.  Centuries later, Pope Gelasius chose that day to honor Saint Valentine, for reasons for which I will withhold comment.  What is really important is why we honor Saint Valentine.  Legend has it that the priest Valentine was martyred for marrying soldiers to their women in defiance of Emperor Claudius' decree.  Claudius, you see, thought men made better soldiers if they were unmarried.  Valentine defied Claudius, and for that, he was put to death.  Some legends have Valentine martyred for helping imprisoned Christians escape Roman torture.  Sure doesn't sound romantic, does it?  Valentine's Day is, in actuality, a celebration of the bravery of one man, who faced with certain death, adhered to his convictions and defied an emperor.  He didn't say "What can one man do?"  He did.  For that, he deserves honor.

If you want someone to blame for the commercialism of the day, look to Esther A. Howland....

Friday, February 11, 2011


It's Friday again.....
Finally getting off the stress highway ....

Watching friends and family make difficult choices,

So we can all find peace.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Bibbity, Bobbity Boo

I started writing on one subject today, then I got news that really made my blog post seem rather trivial.  So, what I'd rather talk about is another of my favorite blogs, 1000 Awesome Things.  It's all about those little things in life that make you smile, like a snowy day, when a friend calls to say they got home safely, when you can hear the train coming into the station.  Bet you were smiling just reading that list.  Sometimes, we're so busy getting through the day, the week or the month, that we focus on what we need to do and what's gone wrong.  We completely miss all those little things that make life worth living:  the smell of chocolate chip cookies, a puppy nose in your face when you wake up, the wonder of a small child who really believes that the just-poured foundation for a house addition really could be a swimming pool.  Life is too short and uncertain not to enjoy its pleasures.  Take a breath and a minute just to enjoy being.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Dinner With The Girls

There are six of us girls.  We all met because we are related in some way to the practice of family law:  4 lawyers, 1 CPA and 1 mortgage broker.  We all love working with divorcing families; we love helping them move forward in a productive way.  What we don't like is investing ourselves in our cases, caring about our clients, doing a good job for them and have them leave us without paying their bills in full.  It doesn't matter whether we've "won" or "lost" their case - a successful outcome is no indication of whether a client will pay the bill.  They don't complain about the bill - they just don't pay it.   So, what is it that makes clients think that they can take full advantage of our expertise and our time, and not compensate us as agreed?  The problem is that the nicer you are about giving them time to pay their bills, the worse it is, because if you're not urgent, you're not important.  It feels like a betrayal.  It hurts to know that we do our jobs, we do them well, we care about our clients and what happens to them, and the same people in whom we made that investment don't value what we do.

Friday, February 4, 2011


Long Week

Short weekend

Then it's Monday again - of another long week

Divorce Court

Just finished two lovely stressful days in divorce court.  I let my "Trial Karen" out to play, because unfortunately, she was needed.  Some people are so angry and so incapable of moving on (even after over 3 years of separation), that settlement is impossible.  Believe me, we tried, and tried, and tried, over the last 3 years.  Unless my client would take nothing and just go away, the other spouse would not settle - literally.  When that happens, all you can do is put on the best case you can and hope that justice will prevail.  Yesterday, it did.  My client got everything for which she asked.  There's a price for being stubborn and unreasonable, and yesterday her husband learned it is a steep one.   

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


The word collegiality can connote respect for another's commitment to the common purpose and ability to work toward it.  Sometimes lawyers on opposing sides of a case lose sight of the fact that they're supposed to be working together to further the cause of justice, a/k/a the establishment or determination of rights according to the rules of law or equity. I mean, that is what I went to law school to do.  It's really nice when two lawyers can work together to make sure the court gets all the facts necessary to make an appropriate decision, that all the evidence goes in correctly and that the judge understands the parties' positions.  That was today.  The case is really contentious, one unreasonably angry party fighting just because he can.  It'd be easy for the issues to get lost in the fight, except they didn't.  The other attorney and I worked together to present the facts and documentation to the judge so she could sift through the chaff and find the wheat.   It made a long, tiring day in court less exhausting.  

What Would Atticus Do?

I'm off today to fight the good fight in court.  That's right - in court.  As I've said so many times, very few folks make it all the way to trial.  Of those who do, usually one or both of them is unreasonable, too angry to see reason, unrealistic or suffering from some type of emotional issue.  Rarely is there really an issue that needs to be decided by a judge, and today is not one of those days.  What a terrible waste of time, money and effort.