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Beverly Hills, CA 90212
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Posted on Aug 12 on 2014

When people learn that I am a family law attorney, the follow-up question is always in reference to the emotions involved and whether I feel more like a therapist than a lawyer.  Very often, clients in the divorce process do come to their lawyer expecting a therapist as well.

My role as an attorney is to be an advocate and legal advisor to the client, which can often mean giving blunt advice that may be difficult to hear.  Although there is a strict line between attorney and therapist/friend/life coach, to be an effective attorney it is still essential to be aware of my client’s concerns, anxieties and priorities. Every client is different and communicating with them about their particular needs and expectations is the only way to have a successful attorney-client relationship.  This can mean telling a client that her shoe collection is not worth fighting over, or explaining that the family residence must be sold, even when there is an emotional attachment.

The key, for both clients and their attorneys, is to remember that your lawyer is not your therapist and not always your friend. In fact, a lawyer should not be assuming those roles for their client; it would be a disservice to them.  The effects of a divorce can be incredibly pervasive – socially, emotionally, and financially and the lawyer needs to be there to hold the course and be the voice of reason when emotions are staring to take their toll.  The heartbreaking affair, for example, although incredibly relevant to my client, is not something a judge will be likely to consider in court.  This is just one example of when, as a lawyer, I must explain to my client that certain issues are better left outside of the courtroom.

I have learned that although I am not a therapist, my role is to make sure that when it comes to the legal aspects of the dissolution I keep the client on track and focused. My responsibility is to give the client the non-emotional point of view, while at the same time recognizing the emotional impact it will have on him/her.

So my response to all the questions as to whether I ever feel like a therapist is yes, I do feel like one, but I know my place is to take care of the legal issues involved and make sure that my client has someone to take care of the emotional issues.

– Sarah Rosenblatt