Ok. This post sounds weird already. Strangely, I was drafting a super long post about Guilt and a bit about a topic that goes with it, Shame. Certainly lawyers have to deal with all kinds of guilt, but I was writing about personal feelings of guilt. It got to be a very intense topic, and then I was talking today to a friend about lawyers and what we have been consulting them for, etc., and thought this would be a more “fun” post, and certainly a bit more original.
From a personal point of view, I know a lot of lawyers. Many of my closest family members are lawyers or law students. So I grew up around lawyers. When I turned 7, I was told by one of my lawyer parents, I forget which one, that I was now old enough to be a witness in a court case. I was very excited to hear it and wondered why no one was asking me to come to court and be a witness… It has been comforting at times to even say, “I will consult my lawyer about that” or “You will be hearing from my lawyer soon.” So I know that even having a family member I can consider as my lawyer is quite comforting. I think one of the first time I actually used a lawyer, and it was a close family member, was for a patient, involving the patient’s insurance company. The patient signed a consent form so “my lawyer” could write to the insurance company and get them to pay for the therapy they were trying to get out of paying. The patient saw the lawyer’s letter and of course through the name realized it was one of my family members. This was one time when it only helped my patient feel more protected to know that I was closely related to a lawyer, and the only time it has come up in a relationship with a patient.
Anyway, for this post I was thinking more about personal experiences and how lawyers sometimes serve a very therapeutic purpose for people, even though they certainly are not therapists… Right now I know several people, actually I could even say, many people, using lawyers for various help in their lives. In several cases, the person knows that the lawyer will not be able to solve their problem, but they pay them anyway for various reasons and feel they are getting their money’s worth. In other cases, especially ones involving sponsorship at a job or obtaining an “artist’s visa” to stay in the U.S., the lawyer has successfully effected change for the better and real relief in the person’s life. No longer do they have to worry that any day they may have to leave their home and their whole life they have built here. Relief and protection are two valuable “states of mind” that I associate with having lawyers help one with something. In very personal matters, lawyers can act as a buffer zone. One no longer has to deal with a person or entity directly with whom one is often angry, frustrated, enraged, even feeling betrayed and wronged by. The lawyer is on the front lines for you, and you can sit in the back seat and relax from the strains of emotional battle.
While lawyers and therapists seem to have and require very different personality types, both deal with the issues of confidentiality and trust with their client or patient. There is even a lot of similarity in the kinds of things one consults a lawyer or therapist for. Issues around relationships and career…Many more therapists seem to have lawyers than lawyers do therapists. I also know of several married or domestic partner couples where one partner is a lawyer and the other is a therapist, and it seems to be a good match, albeit one of those matches where opposite types of personalities attract…I can say I have worked with young and old, and a great variety of populations, even children of lawyers, but I admit I have yet to have a lawyer walk into my office requesting therapy for him or herself. I have colleagues and therapist friends who have worked with lawyers and law students, so I know from time to time they seek out therapists. So it seems quite ironic to me that I have had no lawyer patients. I am certainly open to the idea of it, as I really am grateful for the help I have and continue to receive from lawyers, both friends, family members and referrals from family members.
Here is a direct example of what I would call the therapeutic value or function of a lawyer. In one case, a lawyer is helping me with a very personal matter that is not likely to get resolved, and I am unlikely to get the result I would like from the matter. Nonetheless, a few weeks ago, after talking with this lawyer at length on the phone, I felt my anxiety level about this vexing, enraging topic swing from extremely high almost panic to feeling protected and relaxed about it, though still completely frustrated with the opposing party. And very grateful to the lawyer for taking the time to talk to me about the latest issue that had so vexed me. This was one of those times when talking to a therapist rather than a lawyer would not have served me therapeutically in the odd way that talking to my lawyer did. This story is not unique. And it isn’t the first time I’ve had that feeling of relief and knowledge that this good person was out their on the front lines for me, serving my interests, and staying so calm and rational about something that made me feel completely irrational. Not that different from what some people report feeling after a therapy session. “Nothing changed about my situation, yet somehow I felt better afterwards.” This sentence comes out of people’s mouths sometimes post therapy and sometimes after talking to a lawyer. (Just to emphasize, in saying this, I do not mean to minimize the times after therapy or consultation with a lawyer or experience at court has effected a great deal of change in a person’s life.)Food for thought…