When people ask you what you do for a living and you tell them “I’m a family lawyer”, the reactions are mixed. Some people lean their head to one side or scrunch up their face as if they are apologising. For others, their eyes widen and brighten in the anticipation that you are about to share with them something juicy about what really happened between “Brad and Jen” (or the local equivalent). Some simply share with you their experience in our jurisdiction or the experience of a loved one.
If you ask anyone who has had the unfortunate circumstance of needing a family lawyer, I am certain they will tell you there is far more to it than who gets the steak knives.
It’s often been said that a separation is worse than a death. People are losing a relationship with the person they loved and trusted; losing the dream of their happily ever after. Then, whilst they are grieving that loss, they also have to give consideration to are their children safe, are they coping and adjusting to this life-shattering change; and they have to worry about where they will live, do they have enough money to buy groceries?
It is undeniable that this time in a person’s life will be one of, if not, the hardest and most emotionally traumatic times of their life. But the strength, courage and resilience that we, as family lawyers, see in our clients every day is just one of the things I love about my job.
Family law is also incredibly diverse, in respect of the clients you meet, the other professionals and experts you consult and engage with, the legal issues that arise and also the process options available to resolve a matter. Some days in Court can be incredibly litigious and require you to be “up for the fight”. Other days and most days, we really are just problem solvers, trying to reach an amicable and expeditious outcome for our clients. Whether this is by negotiation, mediation, or collaboration. Every matter is different, just like every marriage or relationship is different and there is no right or wrong answer or set process.
So why do I do what I do? Because I love it. Every day is challenging and different. And yes, sometimes it is emotionally exhausting but building a rapport with your client, learning about them, their life, their experiences, understanding their family and helping them rebuild to look forward to their future is a wonderful way to spend your days.