Friday, November 29, 2019
I once heard from a business associate that the whole point of life is that each of us exist to serve. When I heard that statement, I thought: “Eureka!”. That statement adapting to exactly why I help clients undergoing a divorce.
I have seen divorce or family lawyers like me lose their passion and become burnt out. To put it bluntly, if you don’t like what you are doing, do something else.
I like helping clients through a divorce because I want to make sure as far as I can that my clients can get up on their own feet and move forward. There is nothing more pleasing to my soul to see someone who has been crushed during the process of a relationship breakup then blossom and grow with new life, having that vitality pumped back into them.
The lesson was given to me many years ago by a client who happened to phone up one Tuesday morning to thank me for my efforts (which had been 7 years before). I told her that I was rather dissatisfied with the outcome. Her perception and mine of what had occurred were completely different. For me, I thought that there could have been a much better court outcome. Her impression, however, was that my intervention had changed her life. She said:
“You changed my life. Nobody believed in me, not even me. Only one person believed in me, and that was you.”
My belief in my client and the justice of her cause meant that she was able to escape a very difficult relationship, obtain employment (despite having limited education), find love again – in a very happy, stable and secure relationship – and be loved by family and friends.
Somehow my actions in standing up for her and her rights had changed her life.
When I studied family law at university, I had no interest in it at all. I considered that family law was akin to palm tree justice. It had wobbly concepts and uncertain rules, full of discretion – unlike black letter law such as trusts, which have a storied legal tradition.
To my surprise, shortly after commencing as a graduate in 1985, part of my workload immediately related to family law. I soon realised the error of my ways. I discovered that being a family lawyer – or as a divorce lawyer as most people know us – meant that I was helping real people with real problems. Although as a former President of the Queensland Law Society and family lawyer once described it, family law is the most difficult area to practise in, it has in my view the greatest satisfaction. Helping people get back on their own two feet so that they can look afresh at the world and look after their children and their finances is one of the most joyful jobs anyone could ever have.
I have been extremely lucky to serve clients over that time. I decided to specialise in family law in 1988. It has been my dominant area of practice since then.
When the Queensland Law Society introduced Accreditation of Family Law Specialists in 1996, I was accepted as one of the first accredited specialists. I have remained a Queensland Law Society Accredited Family Law Specialist since 1996.
For the last five years, I have been a Fellow of the International Academy of Family Lawyers, the most elite group of family lawyers in the world. It truly says that I have peer recognition by my international and local peers for me to have been accepted as a Fellow.
I have been lucky as a family lawyer to write articles and undertake presentations concerning family law and divorce to other family lawyers and associated professionals such as social workers and psychologists.
Despite the joy of writing and presenting, the true joy is to assist clients and help them get on their way after their relationship has broken down. Helping give them that sense of purpose and getting them out of their mess as quickly as possible (and hopefully without going to court) gives me a keen sense of satisfaction that I have been lucky enough in my calling to serve others.