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Tag: legal secretary

Law from a legal assistant’s point of view, week 52: One year

By Quinton Lister, legal assistant  

Well, I made it. 

There was no real worry that I could not do it, but being a legal assistant is not an easy job and there were days when I doubted myself, as I assume all people do at one point in time or another in any difficult, challenging job.  

I have learned so much as a legal assistant to a divorce attorney. The sheer amount of things I have discovered just by virtue of showing up for work each day astounds me. I still feel like a complete neophyte (yes, I still remember that word and what it means), but I also know that I am not that complete of a neophyte anymore despite how I feel. 

For all those who are wondering, hiring a good attorney is worth it. The legal jungle is thick, dark, and treacherous. Frankly, you cannot afford not to hire a good attorney. I have learned that lesson in my time as a legal assistant here, and it is what has convinced and inspired me to study the law myself.  

Thanks for reading for a year, and we will write again soon. 

Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277 

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Law from a legal assistant’s point of view, week 50: Learning still

By Quinton Lister, legal assistant  

It has been almost a year since I have started working as a legal assistant to my boss, attorney Eric Johnson. I have learned so many new things about the legal system, about myself, and about being a professional. I am still not a licensed attorney, and I will not be for some time (I start law school this fall), but it’s both surprising and exciting to realize, despite everything I have learned, that there is still more to learn. I know this is not a profound observation. Many people and clichés have been constructed to describe this very phenomenon, but I understand it better than I ever have before. Just when I feel like I have mastered one thing, some new challenge appears that I must learn to resolve well. Life and work are like that. We learn just enough to do and move on to the next thing we need to learn and do. And there is always something to learn and do next. I used to get upset at that, but I am learning to accept it, and even embrace it now. I will always be ignorant about something, and that is just fine so long as I commit to overcoming my ignorance where I can. 

Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277 

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Law from a legal assistant’s point of view, week 49

By Quinton Lister, legal assistant  

What is the one thing that would help decrease divorce in the United States?  

I honestly think that commitment to marriage as more than a legal institution would lead to less divorce. As society has begun to view marriage as merely a legal construct, we have begun to value marriage less and less. As we decrease the value of marriage we also decrease the importance of family. One peculiar instance of this phenomenon in action is the morals behind two recent Disney movies, Turning Red  and Encanto (before I go further, I will say that I liked one of these movies and did not like the other one). Each of these movies tells the story of a girl growing up in a highly structured culture in her family. Each movie seeks to deconstruct the family culture the main character is born into, and each of them champion the value of overcoming family tradition and culture to “truly be oneself”. The interesting thing about each of these movies is the idea that the individual is more important than the family unit. Now, to be clear, there are family dynamics that are unhealthy that need to be fixed, but the hyper focus on the individual clearly undermines the necessity of sacrifice inherent in marriage and family relationships. We do give up part of ourselves in order to be one with others, and that is not always a bad thing. Spencer Kimball put it so well: “In serving others, we ‘find’ ourselves in terms of acknowledging divine guidance in our lives. Furthermore, the more we serve our fellowmen . . . the more substance there is to our souls. [I]ndeed, it is easier to “find” ourselves because there is so much more of us to find!” Placing the needs and success of the family ahead of our own is, one of the best things we can do for ourselves. Healthier and happier marriages make healthier and happier individuals. And healthier, happier people make up the best families. Not to put to fine a point on it: you need a family, and your family needs you.  

Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277 

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Law from a legal assistant’s point of view, week 47: The Healer’s Art

By Quinton Lister, legal assistant  

One thing my boss, attorney Eric Johnson, has told me that has had an impact on my view of law is the idea that law was traditionally supposed to be a healing profession. I myself will be starting law school soon and will be learning more comprehensively the ins and outs of the legal profession, and I think that the best lawyers that I have seen seek to bring their clients healing. 

There is an important distinction I need to make here. I am afraid that there are some out there who would think that what I am saying is that good lawyers get their clients what they want or avoid conflict. That is not what healing is in my opinion. You would not want a doctor who only performs you the procedure that you want at the expense of the procedure that you need. To truly bring about justice and appropriate mercy, a good lawyer must uphold the law, and that means not just giving the client what the client wants. It also means not running from conflict every time it arises because conflict is part of life (and some conflicts can be resolved only by confronting and overcoming them, not avoiding or compromising them). The healing comes from doing what is right by your client but also what is fair to the opposing party. Healing comes at times through conflict, but keeping an eye on what the absolute truth of any given situation is, at least when it comes to the law. 

Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277 

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Law from a legal assistant’s point of view, week 46

Law from a legal assistant’s point of view, week 46: Simplify, but do so Elegantly 

By Quinton Lister, legal assistant  

As a legal assistant to a divorce attorney, I find that one of the most difficult things to do in the law is to take a legal concept and simplify it without dumbing it down. A good lawyer has the ability to simplify, but can do so in an elegant way.  

The best way to help a client, is to help them understand enough about their case so that they feel empowered. That doesn’t mean that the client will understand everything about their case (any divorce case can get complicated quickly), but if a client can feel empowered and that they can do something then that will make the attorney’s work more effective. Legalese is a real phenomenon and any uninitiated individual would feel overwhelmed by too much lawyer speak. However, if you simplify legal concepts too much, then that same uninitiated individual can be misled because they do not understand enough about their situation.  

Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277 

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Law from a legal assistant’s point of view, week 45

By Quinton Lister, legal assistant 

I work for a divorce attorney, but I am not pro divorce. I understand that if there were no divorces I would be “out of a job”, but that still does not mean I have to like divorce. That being said, I think that divorce attorneys offer a valuable service, especially to those who have a vengeful or, for lack of a better term, “crazy” ex-spouse.  

I have seen firsthand the tactics many unscrupulous divorce attorneys and their clients will use to prolong divorce proceedings, or to get extra money that the law does not guarantee to them. I have seen the damage that is the result of lawyers and their clients treating divorce like a zero-sum game.  

If your ex-spouse is treating you maliciously and/or unjustly (and I mean “unjust” in the sense of breaking the law in their treatment of you), then you owe it to yourself and your family to consult with and hire a good attorney. Hire an attorney who is both skilled and moral. Hire a lawyer who will do his/her best to help you and the other party comply with the law and resolve issues equitably and in a timely manner.  

Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277

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Law from a legal assistant’s point of view, week 44: Mountains

By Quinton Lister, legal assistant 

One prominent geographical feature of Utah (where I am a legal assistant for a divorce attorney) is the mountains that surround the cities and towns of the state. I grew up in Colorado where there are beautiful mountain ranges as well, and among the many natural beauties of Utah and Colorado, the mountains are some of the greatest.  

I have gone on several hikes through the mountains here in Utah and Colorado and it always amazes me how tired I get when going on these hikes. Mountain trails are almost always more steep and rugged than we believe or expect, often resulting in inexperienced hikers finding themselves surprised at how tired—sometimes even sick—they become. In extreme cases, people die when they are not mindful of the elevation, the pitch, the altitude, and their effects.  

I have found that in the legal system, we also should be “mindful of the territory” so to speak. There are so many different nuances and tricky “elevation changes” in the law that one must know what they are doing to navigate it successfully. Much like an experienced guide on a mountain trail, a good lawyer can help protect you from hurting yourself, or worse still, “perishing” in any way on your journey. If you are in legal trouble, be smart and consult legal counsel, and do your homework. It will save you from mental, emotional, and financial exhaustion in the long run (and in the short term for that matter). 

Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277

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Law from a legal assistant’s point of view, week 43: Law Offices

By Quinton Lister, legal assistant 

One thing that I have noticed in my time as a legal assistant to a divorce attorney is that most law offices are difficult to work with compared to our office. I am not saying that because I like to paint all lawyers with a broad brush, but I have found that it can be extremely difficult to get anything done when trying to work with other attorneys and their staffs. 

At my office, we actually answer the phone when people call our office. And when we’re already on the phone when people call, we call back the same day or the next day at the latest. Same with email. You send us an email and we’ll respond to it same day or the next business day at the latest. Send us a proposed draft to review and we get back to you as soon as we actually can, not weeks later claiming we were “in trial”. Not so with the clear majority of the attorneys I deal with. Not even close. There are times when we go days, weeks, even months ignored by opposing counsel. 

Need to schedule a hearing? How is it that opposing counsel almost always picks that latest of the open dates? They’re not fooling anyone. It’s a running joke among the court clerks.  

It may be that lawyers are literally busy all the time, but I think there must be some unwritten rule somewhere in the lawyer world that says you cannot cooperate with another law office unless you are friends with opposing counsel, or you benefit personally and substantially from cooperating with the other attorney. Professionalism and professional courtesy is in shocking short supply. Divorce lawyers, and their clients, tend to drag their feet and elongate proceedings unnecessarily. These are people’s lives we are dealing with, so we must do our best work as consistently and as efficiently as possible, so that they get the most benefit for the substantial amount of money clients spend on their lawyers. If you are a divorce attorney reading this blog, take and return calls and emails timely. Do your best to expedite the process. It will benefit you and, more importantly, your client. 

Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277 

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Law from a legal assistant’s point of view, week 42

Law from a legal assistant’s point of view, week 42: Do you like divorce law?

By Quinton Lister, legal assistant 

Often when I tell people I know that I am a legal assistant to a divorce attorney, I usually get asked if I like divorce law. The answer to that question is yes and no. I will start with the “no” part of my answer. Divorce, at it’s best, is miserable. Sure there are “amicable” divorces but it is a painful experience and subject for everyone involved, and so, understandably, most people are not happy or congenial when going through divorce. Even those who are happy and congenial, are experiencing immense pain and sometimes they project that on me because “I’m the assistant”. So, in that sense, no, I do not like divorce law because sometimes it is hard to deal with people going through divorce. 

I will now address the “yes” part of my answer. I do like divorce law because I know that the work I do to help my boss help his clients is important and helps people who need help. I have come to see how important competent legal counsel is and I believe that a good lawyer (meaning an honest and competent one) can do a lot of good for you. I see how that work can bless lives and so for that reason, yes, I do like divorce law. 

Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277 

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Law from a legal assistant’s point of view, week 34: Electing judges

Law from a legal assistant’s point of view, week 34: Electing judiciary officials

By Quinton Lister, legal assistant 

I mentioned in a previous post that if I were to build my own legal system that I would make all judiciary officials publicly elected officials. However, I recognize there are pros and cons to electing judges.  

PROS (as I see them): 

  1. Having elected judges would increase the accountability judiciary officials have to the public. In Utah, we can vote to retain a judge, but we do not vote them into office, as they are appointed by the governor.
  2. Electing judges allows the people to have a greater voice in the justice system. What better way to ensure that the judges represent the people then allowing the people to elect the judges?
  3. A judge who is elected has more incentive to act in accordance with the voice of the people, especially if they face re-election. They cannot “rest on their laurels” so to speak.

CONS (as I see them): 

  1. Elected judiciary officials are more susceptible to the influence of special interests. As is the case with any publicly elected official, big money can and will throw its funds behind the candidate they believe will represent their particular interests, even when those interest are contrary to the public interest. 
  2. Publicly elected judiciary officials have more incentive to “legislate from the bench” to appease their constituents
  3. * Electing judges can result in inexperienced judges, if the same judge can’t get re-elected. Electing judges can result in a revolving door of new judges coming in and out of the judiciary each election cycle.

*This could be a potential pro in the eyes of some. 

Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277

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Law from a legal assistant’s point of view, week 33

By Quinton Lister, legal assistant 

One part of my job as a legal assistant that I have yet spoken of has been my day-to-day interaction with potential clients. When you call a lawyer’s office you will almost assuredly first speak with a receptionist or with a legal assistant like me, and not with the lawyer himself.  

Now before I go further, we want to make legal advice and assistance as available to as many people as we can, but many people don’t seem to understand how a law office operates.  

May I suggest what you should do when you call a law office for the first time?  

First, remember that I do not own or run the office. I’m the legal assistant. Asking me questions I can’t answer and trying to haggle with me will not get you free advice or a free consultation. That’s not my decision and I’m not qualified to give legal advice. My role is limited essentially to two basic things: 1) helping you schedule an appointment with the lawyer who can actually answer your legal questions and evaluate your case, and 2) providing background information on the firm and what it does.  

Second, understand that a legal assistant is not a lawyer and thus does not know the answers your legal questions. This is not only an issue of pragmatism, but it is also an ethical matter. If I were to try to give you legal advice without being a lawyer, my boss could get in trouble for it. 

Third, while there are many questions about the office and what we do that I can answer and that I am happy to answer for you, there is a difference between asking a quick question that I can handle in a minute or two and several questions that would take, at best, half an hour or more to answer.  

Fourth, lawyers are like everyone else who works for a living. They aren’t in the business of working for free. They can’t be. Lawyers are expected to provide about 50 hours of free legal advice or assistance per year to those who truly cannot afford to pay for it, but unless the lawyer is independently wealthy, he can’t give away his services every day. Yet I am amazed at the number of people who call our office not just daily but hourly asking for free legal advice, even free legal representation. 

Fifth, the lawyer in our office works throughout the work day. He is quite busy during the work day. He’s rarely free to answer the phone when someone makes an unexpected, unscheduled call to the office. Please do not be upset or offended if you are told when you call the office that there is no lawyer available to speak to you at that very moment. When people call our office and the lawyer isn’t available to take their call, I offer to schedule a time for them to meet with or speak with the lawyer as soon as he is available either later that day or later in the week. That is the best that he and I can do, and we hope you understand why. 

Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277

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Law from a legal assistant’s point of view, week 31: Brian Flores

Law from a legal assistant’s point of view, week 31: Brian Flores and the NFL

By Quinton Lister, legal assistant 

My experiences as a legal assistant to a divorce attorney have started to change my perspective on many aspects of law and the legal profession. My view on the class action lawsuit Brian Flores (a former head coach of the Miami Dolphins) just filed against the NFL shows how my perspectives have changed.   

If I were not working as a legal assistant when Flores filed his lawsuit, I would have likely swallowed the narrative from the news and entertainment media on who is right and wrong and what action should be taken. 

For those who may not be familiar with the Brian Flores case, I will summarize: Flores, who is black, filed a class action lawsuit against the NFL and multiple teams for racist hiring practices. After he was fired from the Miami Dolphins as head coach, Flores applied for a new coaching job and interviewed with many teams, including the New York Giants. 

Flores received a congratulatory text from Bill Belichick (coach of the New England Patriots) for landing the new head coach position with the New York Giants. The problem is that first, Belichick’s text message was meant to go to a different “Brian”; specifically, Brian Daboll (a white man), who did in fact get the head coaching job). Belichick sent Flores the text by mistake. Second, Flores received Belichick’s congratulatory text message 3 days before his interview with the Giants. Flores claims this is evidence the Giants conducted a “sham” interview. Flores alleges that he interviewed by the New York Giants as the token black man to comply with the NFL’s “Rooney Rule”, a policy the NFL adopted in 2003 to boost hiring of minority coaches.  

Granted, my legal knowledge is limited, but to me it was a mistake for Flores to file a lawsuit. It appears to me that Flores cannot prove he was the victim of racial discrimination. Indeed, if even he could prove his race was, ironically, exploited to comply with anti-discrimination rules, that wouldn’t prove Flores was rejected for the job because of his race. Diversity quotas may be well-intentioned, but they accomplish the opposite of what they are intended to do. While the Rooney rule and anti-discrimination laws may result in more racial minority representation the NFL’s coaching ranks, is that really racial neutrality? Trying to legislate discrimination out of existence paradoxically fosters racism, albeit a more complex, covert kind of racism. Racism is a cultural problem that can only change with a change in the culture. As affirmative action and other failed legal efforts show, such a change can only come by choice, not by fiat or force; that only aggravates existing tensions and creates more problems than it solves. 

Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277

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Law from a legal assistant’s point of view, week 30: Good Judges

By Quinton Lister, legal assistant 

In the course of my 7 months as a legal assistant to a divorce attorney in Utah, I have already shared some of my thoughts on the role of judges.  

I have come to see how much power judges have and it has given me pause to consider the impact a judge can have on the lives of so many people. It is essential for the courts of Utah (and the rest of the United States of America) to be staffed with good and competent judges. I do not claim to know all of what makes a judge good and competent, but I will elaborate on what I mean by “good” and “competent”. 

What I mean by a “good” judge is a judge that has a good heart. That does not mean a judge who is lax and lenient, unwilling to “make the punishment fit the crime.” Good judges follow the law and construe and apply it fairly and impartially.  

A “competent” judge is knowledgeable of the law and not afraid administer it. Is one who understands the rules of evidence and can be decisive when called upon to be. This is different from what I mean by “good” because competence in this sense means that the judge knows the law, what it means (and what it does not). One who is still learning and willing to learn, even while a judge.  

Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277

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Law from a legal assistant’s point of view, week 29: Be Smart

By Quinton Lister, legal assistant 

The lesson I have been learning in my time working as a legal assistant is how important it is to have legal representation. Not just legal representation, good legal representation.  

I have by now witnessed firsthand the many, many flaws and broken parts of the legal system and I am convinced that I would never want to represent myself in a lawsuit if one was ever filed against me.  

Ignorance is most definitely not bliss when it comes to the law, and trying to defend yourself when the cards are stacked against you (and trust me, it hasn’t taken me long to discover the cards are stacked against you) rarely ends well. Happy endings make for good movies, but self-represented people (also known as pro se) don’t see many happy endings.  

I think that one reason why we like those “against all odds” movies is because it helps us believe things that make us feel better about ourselves and our circumstances. At some point or another in our lives, we all find ourselves unable to handle the truth that the system is broken, and that justice is too often hard to come by. So we latch on to the fantasies where things turn out well and they all lived happily ever after.  

I am not trying to be a “Debbie Downer” or prophesy of forthcoming doom in your particular case (if you are unfortunate enough to be proceeding pro se in a lawsuit), but the realities are that 1) the legal system is in major need of reform and 2) your best protection in and against a broken system is an honest, skilled lawyer who knows both the written and the “unwritten” rules that govern it.  

Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277

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Law from a legal assistant’s point of view, Week 28: With liberty and justice for all

By Quinton Lister, legal assistant 

Why is navigating the legal system complicated? There are many reasons. Several things complicate the nature of our legal system. One thing is money.  

Lawyers make a living representing people in legal matters. Money itself is not the cause of the complications in the legal system, but the desire for more money and lots of it complicates many things, and the legal system is no exception. 

Another thing that complicates the legal system is that sometimes people forget that the law is not based on their subjective values and opinions. “Legislating” from the bench complicates things because it undermines faith that someone will be subject to objective standards as opposed to the personal bias of a judge or collective bias of a jury.  

Another problem with the legal system is the public’s growing ignorance of and apathy toward it. I am more convinced each day that one of the most neglected but necessary elements of education is civic education. Ignorance of the law is coming to be seen as a legitimate defense. It is my opinion that one of the greatest gains for a more equitable and just society would be a legally educated populus. One way to help the public better understand and respect the law and legal system is by maintaining laws that are consistent and concise, and avoiding the temptation to believe mere legislation solves anything. Tacitus put it perfectly when he stated, “The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws.” 

Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277

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Law from a legal assistant’s point of view, week 27: Beginnings

By Quinton Lister, legal assistant 

The old cliché of “Every end is really a beginning” has had me thinking the past couple of weeks. I think about phases in my life and the lives of others. Whether it is death, retirement, or even divorce, often those things that seem to mark the end of something really lead to the start of other, new things. 

Divorce is an end, and there is no denying that. I think more importantly though, and I speak from what I have seen being a legal assistant to a divorce attorney, that divorce can be a moment of clarity that helps people move forward (if people will let it).  

Some people let divorce tear them apart and lead them to more mistakes, others allow/make divorce a means of finding out who they really are and what they ought to be doing. “It’s not what happens to you but how you respond that defines you” (one good cliché deserves another).  

Seeing so much divorce has taught me that I want to act instead of being acted upon. It can be hard to recognize when we are reacting instead of being proactive (thank you Stephen Covey), but the reward is that much greater to those who choose proactivity over reactivity. The same hammer that shatters the glass forges the steel. 

Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277  

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Law from a legal assistant’s point of view, week 22: The Rule of Law

By Quinton Lister, legal assistant

Rule of law. The restriction of the arbitrary exercise of power by subordinating it to well-defined and established laws. 

My time as a legal assistant for a divorce attorney has been instructive and eye opening. One positive thing I have come to appreciate more fully is the miracle of the rule of law.  

I have been very skeptical of the law, even from a very young age (I think part of that is just I was always taught to respect authority yet not to take it simply “lying down”). Oftentimes, it is easy for me to say that those who are in power are there not so much because of some noble desire to serve the people but primarily (if not solely) to exercise power over people. My current experiences in the legal profession have not eliminated that view, but I have been pleasantly surprised that there are people who do respect and uphold the rule law. 

I do not need to agree with the law to respect the rule of law. I think the most effective lawyers and judges and legislators and litigants are the ones who recognize that to serve society’s interests best we must respect the rule of law (that’s how a democratic republic needs to work). No one is above the law and even though injustice exists, and for a just legal system to exist we need to be law-abiding people. 

Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277

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Law from a legal assistant’s point of view, week 19: Litigation

By Quinton Lister, legal assistant

Litigation is not fun. It’s anything but fun. Now, I am not a lawyer and I have only been a legal assistant since this past summer, and that’s the sum total of my experience with the legal system to this point in my life. But even then, I feel that I know enough to say that litigating is hard and I see why people hire lawyers when they’re involved in litigation. I am not a naturally argumentative person. I do not really go looking for arguments and I do not enjoy arguing because the point of arguing is to show why you are right and the other person is wrong, and I prefer to stay out of stuff like that because I do not feel qualified to say someone is right or wrong (even if it is as clear as day). So, what on Earth is driving me to want to pursue law? It seems like I would hate it as a career, so why would I bother seeking to gain more knowledge in that area? 

Well, I might be a fool, but as much as I hate arguing, I hate to see other people become victims of the very system that claims to defend their rights even more. I hate seeing other people being taken advantage of by people who are supposed to be watching out for that person’s best interests (I am talking about lawyers and judges). It is cliché now to suggest that the system is broken (which is only causing people to be more complacent about the broken system), but I think people deserve to be treated like people and when we do not stand up for the rights of all people we eventually stand up for the rights of none (also cliché, but no less true; in fact, all the more true because it’s fallen to the level of cliché).  

Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277  

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Law from a legal assistant’s point of view, week 10: Divorce

By Quinton Lister, Legal Assistant 

I think most of the observations I am having as a new legal assistant are not groundbreaking, but my boss and I are learning that readers who are contemplating or going through divorce really like the observations of someone new to all of this because they have thoughts and feelings similar to mine, and for the same reasons—it’s all new to them, it’s all new to me.  

Most of my observations expressed in my blog posts are driving home points that I already knew at least something about in some respect. For instance, divorce is hard!  

That is not a unique observation, even those who have ever only heard of accounts of divorce can tell you that.  

I have heard plenty of jokes about ex-wives and ex-husbands. I have heard statistics about how about half of the marriages in the United States end in divorce, but even then, only working with someone going through divorce (which I get to do each day, with many clients each day, through my work) is causing me to learn to a greater extent how hard divorce really is. 

Divorce is sad, angering, burdensome, expensive, and heartbreaking. It not only affects the lives of those involved in the divorce, but extended family members, friends, co-workers, and more.  

Consequently, one thing that I understand much better after about 2 ½ months on the job is why people are so often in a bad mood (or worse) when I call them with news or with requests regarding the divorce action. Whether it be a client, another law office, or a court clerk, a call or email from me is usually (not always, but usually) bad news.  

See what misery people go through in most divorce cases causes me to see my own trials and challenges differently. Frankly, I am grateful I am not going through divorce myself. Though it is not easy getting on the phone at times with a client whose nerves are frayed and/or who’s been dealt another unfair blow, I would rather do that than experience some of the things I see clients and others going through. I am glad when I can be of service to them by doing my job effectively. Even though it may be painful in the moment, it’s good when I can spare some pain in the long run. 

Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277  

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Law from a legal assistant’s point of view, week 8: Legality vs. Morality

By Quinton Lister, Legal Assistant 

Since I have started working as a legal assistant, I have come to realize more the nuances of legality vs. morality. For the purposes of this post, I will define legality as that which is permitted by law (in other words, behavior that is permitted by law or that the law supports) and I will define morality as principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior.  

I think everyone realizes that even though something is legal, it does not necessarily make it morally right. For instance, Nazi soldiers who rounded up Jews in WWII Germany were not doing anything illegal given the laws of Germany at that time (also a lack of international criminal law enforcement). However, none of us would say that what they were doing was morally right. The difference in this case is obvious. 

This is not a new observation by any means, but through observing the practice of law up close I have come to see how it truly is the case that the law does not always represent what is morally right. I think in an ideal society, that would be the case. I would think that all laws in a perfect world would represent perfect moral goodness.  

But in our imperfect legal system within the United States, sometimes the law prohibits us from doing the right thing. I think this is particularly true in the case of divorce and family law. I think that simply by trying to legislate things like child custody, child support, and alimony, more battles are created than actual justice/healing in a broken relationship. I am not saying that people who have been/are getting divorced should just get along, I am saying that whatever healing could have taken place often gets lost in a competition to get back at someone, to get “my fair share” of something, or “get what the law allows”. I think that we naturally generate that competition through trying to focus on what is legal vs. what is morally good, what is right under the circumstances.  

I am not sure what the solution would be to this problem. Law is an important part of life, even in domestic cases. I am sure there is some way to make the law less adversarial in nature, or at least my naiveté leads me to believe as much. 

Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277  

 

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