From a Divorce Lawyer, The Questions We Get at the Dinner Table

(Reposted from my LinkedIn Blog): Certainly “divorce law” is not the most comfortable dinner conversation topic when out with friends. Often when the discussion turns to “How’s work?” or “Tell us about what you do”, there’s an uncomfortable pause when I explain that I am a family lawyer. I often get looks wondering if that means I handle divorces, or simply all sorts of law for families (like wills, etc.). I then explain that yes I am a divorce lawyer, but I prefer to call myself a “Freedom Lawyer”.

It breaks the ice and is certainly truthful, at least in the minds of many who have been divorced. But what happens next is almost always one of two things. Either the conversation moves right along to another topic, perhaps because people do not know what to say (which is fine with me, I do not want them to be uncomfortable), or more often someone starts to tell a story about their own, or a friend’s divorce. It still amazes me how many people are touched by the process. And it seems to always be a cathartic discussion.

People who could never discuss their own situation when it was happening, have now moved on and can have some perspective. They see the process in the broader sense and actually seem to enjoy discussing how it works, and how people each seem to handle divorce differently. And I realize that these discussions are much more pleasant than the ones we often have with people in the midst of a divorce. These dinner discussions seem to become a commentary on human nature, on how different people handle the same process differently. How some people put their head in the sand while others want to fight for “principle”.

And these discussions, this hindsight and retrospective, helps me improve as a lawyer. Because when I am in the middle of a divorce case, I must always think about how can I help them get to a place where they can reflect and be glad that moment is behind them, but also know that I helped them through it. No lawyer is perfect and certainly we get blamed for a lot, but we too must evolve and learn and grow and try not to just look at the moment, but to think ahead to that dinner discussion, and how we want our clients to look back at the process we helped them through. And hopefully, if we do our job well, the discussion will be a positive one and one that makes us proud of our profession and the difficult work we do.