It’s a question I get asked quite often. For each attorney, his or her story is a little different. Mine may not be as inspiring as others, yet it holds one key tenet that’s probably true of all attorneys: problem solving.
I am a problem solver.
This became apparent to me during my first job after college working at a non-profit in Washington, DC. My work there inspired me to go to law school, still with no aspiration of being a divorce attorney.
Thankfully, I chose Northeastern University’s law school.
For those of you familiar with the school, Northeastern offers a co-op program as part of your education. This is where you work for a quarter rather than attend classes. During my law school years, I worked at large non-profit again, followed by co-ops at a large law firm, a legal service organization, and finally a small general practice. It was at that firm where I received my first real taste of family law.
While working at the general practice on family law cases—divorces, specifically—I made a number of discoveries about myself:
- First, I truly enjoyed working one-on-one with clients
- Second, the emotional nature of divorce didn’t bother me; I could remain objective and focused
- Third, my affinity for problem-solving or puzzles, which adequately describes many divorces with numerous pieces that need to somehow fit together
- Fourth, the adrenaline rush of doing all the legwork leading up to a presentation in court before a judge
- Finally, the opportunity to make a real difference in people’s lives by being good at what I do
So that’s how I made the choice of being a divorce attorney. After a few years, you get a few cases under your belt and learn some things. While I still enjoyed many of the things listed above, I found the outcome of a case too often was out of my control and, more importantly, that of my client. Typically, the outcome was decided by the court, which relied on existing formulas and precedent with very little flexibility. That’s when I sought out other areas of divorce law: divorce mediation and collaborative divorce.
Divorce mediation provides couples who agree on the basics of the divorce the opportunity to represent themselves through the negotiation. This helped mitigate the cost of a divorce by reducing legal fees and expediting the process. Acting as mediator also appealed to my problem-solving skills. Finally, helping couples reach a consensus without the added expense and duress of time in court was personally satisfying.
While the outcomes in divorce mediation proved more favorable than litigation cases, it was not a good fit for all of the cases that I encountered. Couples didn’t always have the expertise to analyze division of assets and other elements of a settlement. Additionally, while most couples in mediation agreed to divorce and the basics of that agreement, it didn’t always make for a smooth negotiation. Collaborative divorce offered a divorce coach/facilitator as part of the process to help make things go smoother and to essentially help couples establish a working relationship they could take forward post-divorce.
These two areas—divorce mediation and collaborative divorce—have become the foundation of my practice. It didn’t happen overnight. It took an extensive amount of training and classes, which I continue to this day to stay current in the practice of both divorce mediation and collaborative divorce.
What’s been most satisfying about my evolution to divorce mediation and collaborative divorce is how both build on what I enjoyed most about being a divorce attorney: One-on-one interaction with clients and problem/puzzle solving.
The greatest satisfaction however comes from results. Many clients come to my firm in a state of distress. In working with them through mediation and collaborative divorce process, you can see how these individuals grow as people. Much of that has to do with the effort of the individual. But I like to think a certain amount of that has to do with the guidance I’m able to give and the tools both divorce mediation and collaborative divorce provides.
So, that’s the story of how I became a divorce attorney, specifically one who practices divorce mediation and collaborative divorce. Hollywood might not come looking for the film rights. But it’s my story and I’m sticking to it.