I haven’t always had much hope for positive relationship outcomes. And no wonder—I’m a divorce attorney! I don’t hear the success stories, or even the stories where everything is blessedly, even boringly “normal.” I hear horror stories of abuse both physical and mental, abandonment, deceit and despair. Soaked in those stories, I have spent days where I felt my anxiety rise with every passing hour.
I learned long ago that I felt better, closer to my best self, when I took a break from the office. But it took me years to realize that it wasn’t just that I was relaxing instead of working. It’s that I was able to get away from the tension and energy of my distraught clients—energy I hadn’t learned to see as separate from my own. A good attorney, I misguidedly thought, gets right in there with her clients and feels their pain and their righteous anger, so she can be the best advocate possible.
Learning to be conscious about discerning which feelings belong to my clients and which belong to me has been an ongoing lesson. At first, it can feel less than compassionate to listen to someone in tears and in pain without going there yourself, too. But ultimately, when we divorce attorneys climb into that hot bed of pain with our clients, we lose ourselves there. Yes, it does help our clients feel better – sometimes. And I loved that my clients felt that I understood them so deeply—because I did.
But I can understand and hear their pain without getting lost in it. In fact, I can better serve my clients when I come from a place of peace and love. And when I do that, I am reminded of why I’ve continued to be a family attorney for so long. Lives change, and with my help, they can be changed for the better.
Lately, I’ve been practicing loving everyone. This might sound incredibly sappy, but believe me, it beats the ball of pain I used to carry in my belly. Remaining steadfast in my positive energy, I sometimes feel completely overwhelmed—in the very best way—by my love for the people in front of me. This week has been amazing. I’ve won two cases so far and have seen smiling faces ear to ear. The reminder of why I have kept at being a family law attorney for so long are the lives changed. I remain steadfast in my positive energy, yet sometimes I’m overwhelmed by love for the people in front of me. Yesterday I met with two new clients, and tears came to my eyes as I heard their pain through recounting their situation. But I was able to stand in love, and to assure them that they were on a journey to a much better life.
Later, in the courtroom, I watched the opposing party and asked myself to see her differently, through the eyes of acceptance and love. It took some effort, because straightaway, she told the judge that I scared her kids! Really? But I just kept at it: “Am I coming from a place of love?” I was able to walk out of the courtroom both with a victory and my open heart. And as I finished my case, I stopped my clients to say, with complete authenticity, “I love y’all.”
Years ago, when I practiced my “elevator speech,” I called myself “Leigh Daniel, attorney with a heart.” It was a hope rather than a reality back then. But today my heart is so full of love for those who cross my path, both clients and opposing parties. It makes a big difference in my world. It makes a difference in theirs. Be an advocate for positive change. It all starts with you.