This week I have been asked on a few occasions why I decided on “The Happy Family Lawyer”. It is a funny question as at the time I am not sure I was all that ‘Happy’ and I think I chose the word to remind myself every day of the importance of being just that- Happy!
I consider myself a generally optimistic and happy person- but often this does require a positive choice or action. I choose to see the good in things, in people or any given situation. I choose to be optimistic. I generally find that each day I have a quiet word to myself as a reminder that it is time to cheer up and get on with things.
The difficulty of course, having chosen a career in law, is that our work often means we are challenged by people, situations or events that are by their nature ‘unhappy’. We spend our days dealing with conflict, problems and difficulties that sometimes have no solution. The task of being ‘happy’ in a legal practice is seemingly harder than in many other professional roles.
My profession has one of the highest rates of psychological distress of any profession. Recent research I have been following suggests that 1 in 3 lawyers are suffering from depression. The perhaps more startling news is that these statistics don’t just start once we become lawyers, law students are also at a disproportionally high risk of experiencing depression in comparison to students in other fields of study.
These statistics are concerning and alarming because they are more than statistics- they are real. Since starting this blog I have been contacted by a large number of practitioners from all over the world who have shared with me their own stories of challenges they face or have experienced as lawyers. It seems that there is more attention on the subject of wellness in law than ever before and it is attention that is well deserved.
As an employer of 13 legal professionals I am only too aware of the importance of ensuring that I and my team are able to pursue excellence in our careers without becoming part of the statistics. So I chose the word ‘Happy’. ‘Happy’ is defined by that age old resource, the Oxford Dictionary, as “Feeling or showing pleasure or contentment”. It, for me, sums up in one simple word what I am striving for, not only for myself, but for my team and my clients.
Divorce and separation are clearly anything but ‘happy’ for most of us but every day I hear my clients hoping and waiting for that day when the angst has past and they feel good again- that day when they feel ‘happy’.
I believe that you can have a happy divorce- it won’t be without challenge, without grief or without pain but when the right path is chosen and time is allowed to pass, it is possible to look back on your divorce experience with pride.
So to answer the question- there were two reasons for choosing to be ‘The Happy Family Lawyer’. As a family lawyer, I choose to be happy in the work that I do, for the team that I lead and for the profession I am proud to be a part of. And then for the families I assist- I hope that the work that I do ultimately leads them to a path of happiness for their future, enabling them to move forward and look back on their divorce with pride.