Family Lawyers transforming clients’ lives
I readed an interview Family Lawyer Magazine did with Illinois Circuit Court Judge Michele Lowrance called “The Tools and Skills Family Lawyers Need” and was reminded once again about how demanding a family lawyer’s job is.
All family lawyers are highly educated. Of course, family lawyers have to know the law, learn how to negotiate and litigate and some would get certified as family law specialists. That part is to be expected, but then they have to deal with the emotions of clients who are probably at a low point in their lives. I have often wondered if family lawyers get any training in that area at all. I always thought that when dealing with people’s emotions, you need some “soft skills”, like people skills, communication skills, compassion and the ability to let people be. I have this idea that therapists and coaches could offer family lawyers a lot of pointers. Today, I thought of one special family lawyer I met in Chicago who could offer a lot of pointers for all divorce professionals. He was my client with Divorce Magazine and became a great friend. Sadly, he passed away several years ago.
I’ll give you some background before I write about this family lawyer in Chicago. Aside from being a marketer, I spent quite a few years working with individuals and corporations as a coach for extraordinary breakthroughs. I learned how to listen for gold and speak purposefully to cause paradigm shifts and open up possibilities that were once considered not possible or never thought of by the participants of the courses I led. To see the unpredictable results that some of my participants produced or experienced was very rewarding to me personally.
Back to the family lawyer in Chicago. His name is Forrest Bayard. He was our client for the Illinois Divorce Magazineine for many years. He liked our mission of having divorce be peaceful and civilized and was a long time client until he passed away. Forrest had the same training I had, and he enjoyed causing breakthroughs with is prospective clients and clients.
He told me how he used his initial consultation with his prospective clients to cause a shift in the way they view their spouse and their divorce. It didn’t matter whether that person became a client or not, Forrest was committed to making a difference with them during that interaction.
Here is what he did: When someone came into his office, and started to say “My spouse did this, and said that, I am going to show them they are wrong, and I want this and that out of the divorce…,” he’d tell them “I will address all these in a moment, for now, may I do an excercise with you so you can get a bit clearer as to what you really want out of the divorce?” They’d usually agree, and Forrest would then clear his desk and put a Kleenex box on the desk, between him and his prospective client and then asked “What do you see on this desk?”, the answer would always be “A box of Kleenex”, Forrest would ask again, and would get the same answer. He would ask one time time “Are you sure?” and they would say “I am sure.” Then he asked them to get up from their seat and walk around the desk to where he was sitting and take another look. That’s when they would see a few paper clips that Forrest had placed behind the Kleenex box which were out of sight for the prospective client when they were sitting on the other side of the desk.
Forrest would use that to illustrate how sometimes when you are so sure about something, such as your spouse is a “jerk”, that if you are willing to move away from your “position” and get over to their side, you maybe able to see things you never saw before, that there might have been another explanation for why they did what they did. He would then ask this question “Do you really want a divorce? Or do you want to rethink your relationship with your spouse first?” Forrest admitted that sometimes that excercise “cost” him a client that he gladly lose because they didn’t want a divorce afterall. But when they did become his client, he would remind them of the excercise whenever the client start getting “positional” and as a result, more clients would calm down and negotiate a settlement. What a great little excercise!
I know a lot of lawyers and divorce professionals have the commitment to make a difference. I hope by sharing this, they will get more ideas. I know Forrest would be happy that you borrow this excercise.
But Judge Lowrance’s article talks about the “hard skills” family lawyers need and the “emotional intelligence” they can develop that law school never teach.