After reflecting on the role of lawyers in family law disputes, I have come to the conclusion that above all else, we are conflict managers. Each conflict is unique, and the attorney’s mission must be to discover the most effective (and efficient) way of resolving the dispute. As family lawyers, we have a special responsibility to help protect the family, that fragile and vital social system, wherever possible.
The lawyer must creatively try to find the least conflictual alternative to resolving the dispute. In some cases, mediation will be the approriate alternative. In other cases, a collaboration may be beneficial. Yet in some cases, using the full power of the court may be the unfortunate, but necessarily preferred means of resolving the dispute. While litigation should be the last alternative, it is an appropriate way to bring a hopeless conflict to a halt.
Most people are grasping for civilized alternatives to resolving their disputes. Wherever possible, less adversarial approaches need to be employed. As conflict increases, the costs–both economic and emotional– increase as well. Unfortunately, lawyers that mindlessly churn family law litigation are unnecessarily creating family conflict for generations to come. Consumers of legal services need to be aware of their alternatives and seek counsel that can help them choose the least harmful alternative to their individual dilemma.
Wisdom, above all else, is the best service that a family lawyer can provide. The stakes are too high to allow anything else.