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Exploring the Impact of Family Law on Clients and Lawyers Alike

— October 18, 2023

Insights from a Decade-Long Family Law Attorney

Family law is a legal domain that touches the most intimate aspects of our lives, from divorce and child custody battles to property disputes and domestic violence cases. For a family law attorney, this field is not just about interpreting statutes and regulations; it’s about helping people navigate emotionally charged situations and life-altering decisions. Having spent a decade in the trenches of family law, I’ve witnessed firsthand the profound impacts it has on both clients and lawyers.

Let’s shed light on some of these impacts, including the importance of setting and accepting boundaries, the emotional toll of family law cases, the inevitable stress that comes from these types of cases, and the ultimate satisfaction and reward that comes from helping families find resolution.

Setting and Accepting Boundaries: A Crucial Skill

Family law attorneys quickly learn that setting boundaries is not just a professional necessity, but a personal one too. In this field, clients often come to us at their most vulnerable moments, overwhelmed by the turmoil in their personal lives. It’s tempting to take on the role of therapist or confidant, but it’s essential to remember that we are their legal advisors first and foremost. Learning to set professional boundaries, while empathizing with their emotional turmoil, is an art we must master.

On the flip side, we also need to accept the boundaries that our clients set for us. Sometimes, they might not follow our advice, or they might make choices we disagree with. While it can be frustrating, respecting their autonomy and decisions is part of our duty as advocates. Think about it from the client’s perspective: They may be facing a divorce in part because their partner refused to accept and honor their personal boundaries. Now they’re going through a divorce and have to set wider boundaries as they separate their life from someone who they had originally planned on being a lifelong partner. Becoming skilled at setting boundaries for yourself can put you in the position of being able to help your client set their own boundaries within their family law case, whether it’s dealing with divorce, a custody battle, or property division.

The Emotional Toll on Clients and Lawyers

Few areas of law are as emotionally charged as family law. Clients come to us with deeply personal issues, such as the breakdown of a marriage or concerns about their children’s well-being. The weight of their emotions can be overwhelming, and family law attorneys often find themselves serving as emotional support as well as legal counsel.

For clients, the emotional toll can be devastating. They must confront the end of a significant chapter in their lives, often filled with grief, anger, and/or fear. As attorneys, we must navigate these emotional waters with sensitivity and compassion.

For us, family law attorneys, the emotional toll is also significant. The stories we hear, the conflicts we witness, and the suffering we encounter can take a toll on our mental and emotional well-being. Self-care becomes crucial to avoid burnout and maintain our effectiveness as advocates. Just as we might recommend our clients seek out a therapist to help them navigate their emotions and feelings, it can be beneficial for us to do the same.

Constant Stress

The practice of family law is inherently stressful. The stakes are high, as we are dealing with issues like child custody, property division, and alimony, which can have a profound long-term impact on our clients’ lives. Court proceedings can be unpredictable, and emotions often run high. This constant stress can lead to sleepless nights and anxiety-ridden days for clients and attorneys alike.

Despite the stress, many family law attorneys, myself included, find the work deeply rewarding. We have the extraordinary opportunity to guide our clients through one of the most challenging periods of their lives, helping them find resolution and closure. Witnessing the positive impact we can have on our clients’ lives is incredibly satisfying and makes all the stress of the process worth it in the end.

Satisfaction and Reward

Man sitting at desk with hands clasped behind his head; image by Jason Strull, via
Image by Jason Strull, via

Perhaps the most significant impact of practicing family law is the feeling of satisfaction that comes from helping clients achieve resolution. Seeing families emerge from the chaos of divorce or other disputes with workable solutions and a chance to rebuild their lives is immensely gratifying.

While the emotional toll and stress can certainly be overwhelming at times, the knowledge that we have made a tangible difference in the lives of our clients keeps us going. Family law attorneys often form strong bonds with their clients, which makes the victories all the more rewarding.

Family Law is Challenging, But Rewarding

There is no doubt that the impact of family law on both clients and lawyers is profound and multifaceted. It requires us to learn the delicate balance of setting and accepting boundaries both personally and professionally, navigate an emotional rollercoaster, and manage constant stress. Despite these challenges, the satisfaction and reward of helping families find resolution make family law a field that many dedicated attorneys find both fulfilling and meaningful. For those who choose to embark on this path, it is a journey that offers the remarkable opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of those we serve.

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