Does It Help or Hurt an Attorney to be Divorced?
February 15, 2013
One question potential clients sometimes ask me is whether I’ve ever gone through a divorce myself (I haven’t – in fact, my marriage is coming up on 33 years which proves that my wife is either very patient or very desperate). My response is usually to the effect that a doctor does not need to have a particular disease in order to effectively treat it.
Recently, the ABA published a book by a family law attorney about her own divorce. This raises the question: Does it help or hurt if the attorney himself or herself is divorced?
The answer (of course) is that “it depends.” If the attorney uses his or her practice to punish the other gender based upon the attorney’s personal experience (and that does happen) it is a negative. Most divorce lawyers represent a relatively equal number of men and women. One’s personal experience can be an impediment for half the attorney’s cases if the scars from the divorce are prevalent. Even worse are attorneys who only represent one gender as they have a severe credibility problem with the courts.
More importantly, lawyers need to maintain a professional distance from the client’s case. It really doesn’t help a client for a lawyer to lose perspective and to take the issues personally. Clients need to hear the objective truth, not a skewered version based on a subjective experience.
On the other hand, many divorcing parties are quite scared at the beginning of the process. Just as a medical patient likes to hear about similar patients who survived the recommended treatment, divorcing parties need to know that there is future which can be much better than the past.
So while being divorced is not a prerequisite for practicing in this field – and can be an impediment – to the extent it’s used to give hope, it’s not a bad thing, either.