By Maggie Sadler, Clark Quinn Moses Scott & Grahn LLP
From divorce, custody, parenting time and guardianships to grandparent rights, family law can be very messy and emotionally draining. When I tell people what I do for a living, the most frequent responses are something along the lines of, “oh, I don’t think I could do that,” or “That must be very difficult.” And truthfully, sometimes it is very difficult. The clients, family dynamics and facts can cause us all to become either emotionally fatigued, excessively anxious, or both. Our clients expect constant access to us and quick responses to time-sensitive questions.
Typically, however, my opposing counsel is not difficult, exhausting, or otherwise adding fuel to the fire. In the midst of dealing with people’s trauma, drama, and everything in between, more often than not I find that I am working with an opposing counsel who is focused on moving the family forward with as few emotional scars as possible. I so frequently hear attorneys in other practice areas complain about how no one picks up the phone anymore, or that they receive nasty-gram emails from an opposing counsel. Our family law bar does pick up the phone. We go to lunch together. We schedule monthly dinners. We call and forewarn one another about a particularly aggressive email, or the 26(f) letter that is on its way. I watch my colleagues consistently acknowledge one another based on their professionalism and successes.
For instance, I witnessed a recent exchange between when fellow Indy attorney Claire Emswiller received discovery directly from an opposing party without running it through her counsel first. Claire contacted opposing counsel and returned the discovery without taking a look first. Opposing counsel acknowledged Claire for her honesty and professionalism. This type of positive acknowledgment of an experience with opposing counsel is not uncommon for the family law bar. I have personal experience and know others have benefited from hive of knowledge that we share with one another.
There is a common understanding that the door is always open in terms of assistance from our colleagues. I feel comfortable making phone calls to most all of the family law attorneys I’ve worked with to discuss a new issue or ask a question. The family law bar emphasizes a safe space for questions big and small. We are advocates and aggressive for our clients, but within that context, we have made a concerted effort as a group to help one another rise up and maintain our professionalism.