Monday, June 3, 2013

They don't teach you that in law school

Last week I traveled across Florida to appear before a  judge and help a client with an issue I obviously can't discuss. It was an something  I've never dealt with before, so I wanted to do a good job. Heat an exhaustion took over when we arrived in Gainesville late Thursday night. I wasn't really in the mood for blogging and on Monday I was to see another client with an entirely different problem. I guess that's what my life would be like if I decided to maintain a regular law practice. Get up every day to get places, meet people, get involved with their lives and problems for a nanosecond and then move on to do it again. But what happened in that courthouse made me once again think about the legal profession- what we do, how we do it and who we are. I was once again reminded that my role is not simply about advising on the law and winning cases. That a legal issue is primarily a human experience with tangled conflicting emotions. We step in, we step out to help them along. That sometimes the goal that people have initiating or responding to actions go beyond what law can get them. And it's more than simply getting a particular desired result. Win or loose my clients look up to me for reassurance. To guide them through the complicated legal procedure. A courtroom can be a scary place, it has to be comforting to have somebody there in your corner, who is there for you only - even if the facts are not in your favor. And having the judge deliver his decision has a cathartic aspect. I've seen it time and again how a petitioner and respondent has an emotional response to what the man in the center has to say, even if it'snot unexpected. The stress, the pain that goes on for months, then hours at the courthouse waiting for your turn as if it was a matter on life and death, even if the outcome can be expected. The release. The relief. A sense of finality and closure.  Sometimes they just need to hear it. Be there, so they can move on with their life.  I understand the need for having a friendly face. Through  my years of dealing with immigration there were times that I felt scared and alone and overwhelmed by everything around me. Often I felt my attorney wasn't comforting enough when I needed some warmth in my time of desperation. My life was in his hands, it was my entire future, all I had, yet to him I was one of many clients on his calendar. These days I'm on the other side of the isle. And I can say that I think as a profession we are not well prepared to address our clients' issues that go beyond simply rendering legal advice. To help them come to terms with whatever the decision may be, especially in areas that feel particularly personal like family law or wills that are all about human stories and emotions. You try to be as understanding and as human as you can. And it seems like, being in their life for a while you can't help it but to take some of their drama and grief on as well. In law school we are taught a lot of legal theory. The concepts, requirements, the elements of the case. If you're lucky you get to do some practical courses as well. What it doesn't teach you that much, outside of what jumps at you out of the pages that you read is human nature. Coping and healing, dealing with fragile emotions, all those things that make law a human experience.

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