Its been said that lawyers don’t pick their specialty…their specialty picks them.
When I first started practicing I clearly remember swearing to my friends and family that I was not going to do family law cases, and if somehow I did, I was certainly not going to handle custody cases. After having interned for a Family Law attorney during law school, I discovered how heart breaking and emotionally charged divorce cases could be. I did not want to suffer the guilt and agony I would feel if my client got a bad result due to something I did or did not do when the result involved their children. So, of course, as fate would have it, family law cases became the bulk of what was coming through my door.
To overcome my concern, I found that I was working much harder on the family law cases: I would second guess myself, going over everything multiple times to be sure it was perfect; I would do extra legal research and take extra continuing education courses on specific issues; I would sit in the courtroom just to watch and learn from my colleagues. I learned how to really listen to my clients and to turn what they were telling me into guidance for what they needed. If they needed to vent their anger and frustration, I would let them, and then once they were done, I would direct them back to the problem at hand and a plan of how best to resolve it. If they wanted “Just the facts, ma’am” (to quote Joe Friday, from Dragnet – dating myself here), I would do that. Or, if they needed a safe place to cry and shoulder to lean on, I was there. I learned to trust my instincts about people and myself. After awhile, I was getting pretty good at what I did and no longer worried about taking the difficult or complex cases. My specialty had finally picked me.
Now, 25 years later, I know it was because of my reluctance to handle family law cases and the extra efforts I made, that I am the attorney I am. I have made a difference in people’s lives by being able to help them in some of the most difficult, emotional, and stressful times in their lives. I know this because I have seen them come through it, and because they have repeatedly told me so. Many aspiring attorneys go into the field of law because they “want to make a difference” in the world. A cliche perhaps, but true nonetheless. I too was one. While Family Law is not the most glamorous of legal careers, it certainly has given me everything I ever wanted from it.