By Quinton Lister, Legal Assistant
The practice of family law takes a thick skin. I haven’t been at the job long (and I’m just a legal assistant), but it’s obvious that you got to be tough to do this job well, even as a legal assistant. Divorce and domestic relations cases are by their very nature very contentious things. I was surprised at how few divorces are amicable divorces until I learned that my boss, Eric Johnson, is a go-to attorney in high-conflict cases.
So how does family law require toughness? Emotionally. That’s a big one. I have always struggled with other people saying unkind things to me or in my presence. This likely makes me seem weak or like I am complaining. That is not my intent. I realize now more than ever that 1) when people are “mean” it is likely because they are under some type of distress and/or they are upset about a crisis or hardship they are experiencing; and 2) for some reason I respond by feeling as though it is my fault that they are upset, even though both they know and I know that I have done nothing wrong.
Emotions run high in family law and it is easy to get caught up in someone else’s bad mood. I am learning that I have to be “tough”, in that I cannot let other people deter me from getting what I need to get done, done. I need to remember that when the clients lash out at me that it’s not really me they have a problem with. That is easy to say but proving difficult for me to implement in my work. It seems that I slip into letting the particularly difficult clients treat me as the whipping boy without even noticing it or realizing that it’s perhaps the worst thing I could be doing, under the circumstances. Not taking the clients’ distress and anger personally, and not letting angry clients or other people I work with—like court clerks and opposing attorneys and their staffs push me around—that is probably the toughest thing for me right now this week, but the practice of law requires that I change.
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