Saturday, November 14, 2009

More Than a Few Good Men (and Women)

I know it’s been awhile since the last post– over a month in fact. Mea culpa. Things have been busy. Since the post of October 6, in addition to the usual slate of matrimonial cases, I organized the lecture for the Nassau County Matrimonial Committee’s October meeting, moderated the Matrimonial and Family Law Judicial Forum (in which I also wrote the seminar materials) and attended the annual meeting of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers in Chicago– and boy are my arms tired. These last three experiences have given me great pause and are the fodder for an article which is in germination as we speak, but I will lay out a small jot (I know it’s redundant, thank you) of my thoughts here.

Believe it or not, I like what I do. I really do get to help people, at least I always try. That is not to say that things do not get ugly as I have mentioned in earlier posts. Most of my nights are restless, if not sleep deprived. A thought here, a worry there, a revelation or hopeful stroke of self-perceived (deluded?) genius sometimes within thought’s reach or not, keeps me tossing and turning. I know that I represent people who are often at their most fragile and that while their turmoil should not become my own, it is many times unavoidable. This does not mean that I cannot separate myself from becoming one with my client’s emotional plight– doing that is the worst thing a lawyer can do not only to his or herself, but also to the client. I tell clients from my initial consultation, that we cannot ride the emotional roller-coaster together; at least one of us needs to think with a clear head and it better be me. What it does mean, is that I am invested in trying to help put the pieces back together and that includes making a commitment to them, their case and their issues-- all coupled with honest assessment. All of these self-directed platitudes are not ego-strokes (really, they’re not– I swear), but to make the point that I am not the only one who feels this way about the practice of family law. In fact, not only do I like what I do, I also like (most) matrimonial attorneys.

Gathering together in a group or speaking individually, there is almost always a sense of caring and/or frustration. Caring about their client and their client’s situation; frustrated about the law and the system’s inability to cope and address their needs and predicaments in a timely and fair manner. There are great aspirations in what we do as men and women in the matrimonial bar. We try our hardest to fulfill them. It pains us when we cannot bring these cases to amicable resolution or if the litigation engenders a decision which we feel is unjust. I think of Gregory Peck in To Kill a Mockingbird or Spencer Tracy in Inherit the Wind. While we may not be able to articulate the kind of words or sentiments brought forth from the written page by these great performances, (and I can tell you that I give it my best shot every time) it is the ideal that most strive for on behalf of those who come to us for representation.

My trip to Chicago for the AAAL meeting served to reinforce what was already clear to me, but sharpened the focus even more so. If you are reading this as a person going through the turmoil of a divorce/family law situation, you should be heartened to know that there are many honest, caring and empathetic professionals out there who specialize in this area and who want to help– seek them out. If you are a matrimonial/family law attorney who fits the description in the last sentence, you know what I am talking about. The others should find something else to do; we all know who you are and you can’t handle the truth.