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Divorce lawyers and emotional support

I spent a day at a training session for all of our divorce lawyers this week, designed by experts in their fields, to help us all better understand and support our clients. This was especially connected with the emotional issues of divorce and relationship breakdown.

Actually, quite a few of our specialist divorce lawyers have suffered a divorce themselves. We are not immune, you know!

The course led me to wonder if divorce law firms should employ counsellors to offer the more complex emotional support sometimes needed. Lawyers can, when trained, offer good support but let's face it, we are lawyers not counsellors or divorce coaches.

What do you think–should we offer emotional support and if so, how?

Andrew Woolley
Divorce Solicitor

Comments and response – Divorce lawyers and emotional support

Lord help me from unfeeling lawyers!  To express sympathy to a client going through a tough time, to remind them of the light at the end of the tunnel, is surely part and parcel of what a good lawyer should do.  The ability to recognise a client in need of more than sympathy and to point them in the direction of that help is simply another facet of what we do whether the help is from a GP, Counsellor or just a good hairdresser….

By Karen Agnew-Griffith on Tuesday November 3, 2009

I think we are there giving emotional support throughout the process whether we are aware of it or not, its part of the job sometimes just to listen and understand our clients and they appreciate that. Naturally those that require specialist input from an expert outside our field of specialism is always recommended whether it is in relation to counselling or otherwise.  The trick I think is trying to identify those client’s who perhaps can’t admit to themselves that they need extra support but who are quite obviously struggling to carry out basic tasks such as giving firm instructions or being able to make a certain decision. That I believe is where the course was really useful, to help us pin point the moment when a client may need to be offered a referral….

By Sue Harwood on Thursday November 5, 2009

Emotional support and empathy, yes, but they are paying for our legal expertise and not for services we are not qualifed to give.  How many lawyers have sat and listened for an hour and then not flinched at charging their clients for that hour despite very little legal advice being given?  I’m not sure a counsellor would have charged at the same hourly rate!…

By Judith Buckland on Friday November 6, 2009

I agree with several of the comments above.  Providing emotional support and hand holding is part and parcel of the role of a family lawyer and we end up doing it automatically and often without realising.  However I think it important that there remains a distinction as if the client begins to view us as a friendly ear and an emotional crutch it can create difficulties when the legal advice we have to deliver is not well received. One client said to me in such a situation “how can you desert me now when youve always been there for me” – I was of course not deserting her at all but doing my actual job of providing her with clear legal advice that unfortunately was not what she expected her “friend with the listening ear” to give! …

By Alison Hill on Sunday November 8, 2009

As a full time specialist Relationship Coach/Practitioner I know when my clients need legal advice and have no problem in recommending a suitable lawyer for them. My wife and I, who work together with couples, also take an active part in our local collab law pods. We are always happy to spend time with lawyers explaining how what we do is a long way from offering a sympathetic shoulder. All lawyers are people first and lawyers second. Of course they know when someone is in pain. Do they have the qualifications, skill and time to do something about it? Probably not. Get to know some coaches, counsellors and relationship practitioners close to you to offer a wider and more holistic service to divorce clients. It’s not good use use of your precious time to attempt something other specialists can do better….

By Nigel Heath on Thursday November 19, 2009

Blog Author - Andrew Woolley

Andrew WoolleyAndrew Woolley

Andrew is the owner and managing partner of Woolley & Co. He regularly offers comments and views on a range of family law issues.

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