One of the common things clients tell me they are told when they face a family law issues is “Get yourself a good lawyer!”.
When I ask them what is meant by a “good lawyer’”, their definitions often boil down to:
· The lawyer who is a warring warrior, ready by your side to do battle; or
· The lawyer who is a magician and can turn the proverbial sow’s ear into a silk purse.
While I certainly see warrior lawyers adversarially leading their client's charge and magician lawyers who create illusions and tell clients what they want to hear, I don't believe they are necessarily the "good lawyers" you would want a friend or loved one to take their family law issue to.
I firmly believe that a client’s biggest decision in resolving their family law issues is their choice of lawyer. Who they choose can significantly alter the course that their matter takes. It can be the difference between seeing conflict inflamed or calmly tempered down. Rather than lead their client into a battle zone, there are lawyers who calmly reframe the dispute zone and help their client find a resolution more peacefully.
I describe myself as a lawyer who bakes which is both a literal and figurative description. I love to bake. I find it has a calming and meditative quality for me. It is an act of nurturing and care. It is both a science and an artform - an exercise in precision, knowledge and creativity. In turn, I often use baking metaphors when working with my clients. In a metaphorical sense, the “baker lawyer” …
…knows that you don’t crank the temperature right up and not expect pots to boil over or tops to get burned. Unlike the warrior lawyer, the baker lawyer carefully keeps an eye on the temperature of any dispute or conflict and adjusts their approach gently, as required, to work to bring things back to the right balance.
…knows that the end result of a client's family law issues will only be as good as the ingredients she or he is given to work with. If you give me only eggs and sugar, I know not to promise you a cake but I do know I can deliver you a pavlova. It is the same with a legal dispute. The baker lawyer knows not to over-promise and under-deliver or give false hope. The baker lawyer knows she can only work with what elements she has and can’t ignore what is missing. The client is a fundamental ingredient or provider of ingredients. I often tell clients “Give me poor or insufficient ingredients, you will get a poor result. I am a lawyer, not a magician.” The baker lawyer knows not to tell a client what they want to hear but, rather, what they need to hear.
…has some hacks up their sleeve. They aren't magicians but they know how to make the ingredients they are given, work to their best and shine. The baker lawyer will help their client identify when: something is not working, the client needs to be doing something differently or needs to reconsider their approach to an issue and assists the client to get on the right track.
… understands you can’t control all the elements. Sometimes the oven is running temperamentally hot or the yeast is dead and a pivot or adjustment is required. Similarly, things outside your control may happen in your case. Perhaps you strike an unsympathetic judge. Maybe the law simply isn't on your side. You can't beat yourself up over these things, all you can do is adjust and move forward.
…knows that to overmix can be lethal. Sometimes, a light touch is required if you are to avoid a tough result. Your client may may want 30 extra paragraphs in their affidavit or a hard hitting letter to your ex's lawyer or a heavier hand to be taken but the baker lawyer will know when that will do their client a disservice.
...appreciates that timing is everything. The pace has to be right in order for everything to come together optimally. For some clients, there is merit in a slower, more considered approach.
...knows old baking powder or yeast doesn’t rise. Dredging through events from 2...3...13 years ago will likely be a costly exercise and usually will not help a client's case so the baker lawyer helps their client to take the steps needed to move on from that and focus on what is fresh and .
...takes time to lick the beaters! You've got to relish the small, positive gains along the way and encourage your client to spot these when they happen. The baker lawyer celebrates when he or she is rocking things and doing well along the way and helps their client to do the same.
So, are you a baker lawyer or some other sort of lawyer? What other sorts are there? What are the positives of being the type of lawyer you are?
I'd love to hear from you - head on into The Law Lighthouse Group and share your thoughts or comment below.