Monday, May 23, 2016
Yesterday after yoga class, I stopped by the grocery store to pick up a few things for my lunches this week. As I was checking out, I saw a woman in the next line. When she turned around, I saw that this woman was someone who had been my very good friend before my divorce. My divorce changed all of that. Not only did this woman cut me out of her life, she also told my former spouse some very personal things that I had shared with her while my marriage was dissolving. Those things were nothing that would create any sort of legal issue during my divorce, they were simply not things I wanted shared - they were intensely personal, and my former spouse used the fact that he knew about them to demonstrate to me how isolated my divorce was going to make me. It's funny, I can't remember what I told her, other than the effect of the disclosure. What I do remember, and what came flooding back to me in a rush at the grocery store yesterday, was the feeling of betrayal. I understand that when people divorce, friends fall away for a lot of reasons. Very few of them, especially those who you hold closest, affirmatively act to hurt you. The details fall away, but the pain remains.
But only the pain remains, and only when I was exposed to a direct stimulus. I think that makes me healthy. It means I've moved on. I wish I could say the same for all my clients. Some of them never move on. They relive the hurts of their marriage every day in great detail. They weigh the injury. They remember all the details. They can't forget. No, I take that back: they won't forget. These folks either don't go to therapy or they don't invest in their therapy. Their lives are given meaning by the pain they've endured. Their self worth is tied to how much they were wronged. The pain I felt in the five minutes in the grocery store? They feel it all the time. I don't know how they stand it. I can't help them make the pain go away and move on, because they don't want to. Truth be told, having these clients is the hardest part of what I do. Here in the Trenches.
Thursday, May 5, 2016
I was reading yesterday's post, and I thought you might get the wrong impression. I am not saying that it is acceptable for the client to tell the lawyer how to run the case. There are things we do as a matter of strategy. There are things we do to position our clients for the future. We do them because we can see the 5 or 7 steps ahead that our clients cannot. That is part of the advice we give and why we, and not our clients, guide the process. Please forgive me if I led you to believe otherwise.
There is a difference, however, between process and substance. It is in the area of substance that we here in the Trenches need to really listen to our clients and work with them, and not just for them. I think I should illustrate. As you know, I'm taking Brene Brown's online course based on her books, Daring Greatly and Rising Strong. The course revolves around the process of becoming more aware of your emotions, being comfortable with vulnerability and developing strategies for working through and rising above set backs. I've mentioned it here and there in this blog, and talked about how hard the process is to work through. Well, yesterday, a friend who is also taking the course and I were talking, and she said that although she is enjoying the process of the course and appreciates the work, understanding why someone is a jerk or why something makes you feel bad doesn't solve the underlying problem. The person is still a jerk and that something still makes you feel bad. In other words, process can only take you so far. You still need substance to solve a problem. Here in the Trenches.
Wednesday, May 4, 2016
Most lawyers are control freaks. Not only that, we are problem solvers. Give us a problem and we will give you a solution. That's what we're trained to do, and what comes to most of us naturally. It's part of what attracted us to the law - we thought the law provided an answer for everything. Of course, we discovered that it didn't. No matter, with our experience and education, we believe we are able to solve our clients' problems. That's why you hired us - right?
Being good problem solvers was such an asset in the old days, when clients came to us for just that reason. Back in those days, what the lawyer told the client to do, they did it, no questions asked. Those days are long gone, thankfully. Greater access to information and more attunement to feelings has created a client who wants to have a say in what happens to them. That new client is why there has been a rise in the use of alternative methods of dispute resolution such as mediation and collaborative law. The client wants to make their own decisions and wants the lawyer to advise and support them and reality test their options. Personally, I think that's a wonderful thing. After all, who knows the other side and what they will and won't do better than their spouse? Who knows what will work in their lives better than the person living it? Frankly, a more empowered client takes a huge weight off my shoulders. It's hard not only providing information and advice but also deciding the future of someone else's life. Am I still a problem solver? Sure, but I've let go of the outcome, let go of the need to control it, and instead use my problem solving skills and legal knowledge to help my clients solve their own dilemmas.
Some lawyers don't have an easy time letting go of the control. They can't stand that they are not in charge of the outcome. They shudder at simply helping their clients work out their own problems. They don't listen to what their clients tell them about what their spouse will and won't do. (I know my first attorney didn't, and they were wrong; thank heaven for my second lawyer.) Mediation and collaboration make them antsy because it's too touchy feely, and the solutions that the clients reach are outside what may have been reached traditionally. There are clients for these lawyers, just as there are clients for lawyers like me. There are just fewer of them. The legal world is changing, and lawyers need to change along with it. It's hard to do, so be patient with us; but not so patient that you agree to something you know won't work just because your lawyer tells you to do so. It's your life, after all. Here in the Trenches.