Why I Practice Family Law
“I want to help people achieve justice in their restructured family lives.”
Q. Why do you practice family law?
A. Because nothing in my 23 years in the law has been as rewarding to me as protecting people’s legal rights in the most personal aspects of their lives. I want to help people use our legal system – which is so difficult to navigate – to achieve fairness and security for themselves and their children.
Attorneys who practice in other fields often think that practicing family law isn’t practicing “real law”. While our cases only rarely result in new law or public policy, or bring us great wealth or fame, we deal in something most precious: people’s children, their relationships, and their day-to-day lives.
I’ve been a corporate litigator, a plaintiff’s medical malpractice lawyer, and a civil rights lawyer. Winning big settlements in those cases was great. But nothing has been as fulfilling or important to me as getting a client custody of his or her child.
Q. What qualities should a divorce attorney have?
A. I think there are five main qualities:
We need to really listen to clients and identify their needs, both spoken and unspoken. Clients come to us in the worst times of their lives, they can skip over information that can make a crucial difference. If we don’t listen closely, we may miss something that could have led the client to a better position at trial or settlement.
Second, we need to be able to give clients “straight talk” about their options. This can be tricky, because some clients don’t want to hear the weaknesses of their cases. We have to be candid with clients so they don’t overstate their cases or end up spending a lot of time and money chasing unrealistic goals. The majority of clients are glad that we give them a “conservative” case scenario. After all, it is their time and money that are at stake.
Third, we have to proactively prepare for and anticipate each step in the divorce process. While there are many “unknowns” in these proceedings – for example, how much temporary alimony a court may award – the key to handling the unknown is being prepared with facts and law. Preparation also makes us credible in negotiations and at trial.
Fourth, we have to be excellent communicators. This means promptly following up with clients, and being gracious with the court and one’s adversaries.
Finally, it pays to have a good sense of humor. Divorce can be as devastating as death and as terrifying as illness. Finding moments of lightness relieves pressure that prevents people from moving forward.
It gives them insight into their predicament and makes them more flexible and hopeful.
– Lisa Kent