Welcome family lawyer friend.
I have walked in your shoes. I practised as a family lawyer (paralegal, Legal Executive and Solicitor) between 2001 and 2013. At points the job was super rewarding and it was wonderful being able to help people in difficult and, in some cases, desperate situations. But I also struggled with the demands of the job at points. This happened in my first job when I was desperate to prove myself and so would do anything I was asked. I didn’t know I could say “no” or “I can’t do that today”. The fact I hadn’t got a training contract had embedded the idea that I wasn’t good enough and I worked harder to compensate for that. This led to me having a mini breakdown and counselling during that taught me the importance of boundaries and loving yourself enough to both put them in place and stick to them.
Things improved after that and I was grateful for the support of fellow family lawyers in a new role as I was the only family lawyer in the firm. Colleagues and mentors don’t have to in your own firm – they can be in other firms too. I moved firms again and this time I worked as part of a team which was great. I loved having encouraging and supportive colleagues to chat things through with. But by 2011 I was returning to work after maternity leave after having my second child. My head of department left and the work didn’t feel the same.
I felt like I was never being good enough as a lawyer, or good enough as a mother. I really struggled with the level of conflict between clients. I found it hard to deal with children cases when my own children were so little. The level of conflict started to get to me and I felt like I was just helping people to put out fires that they’d started. I started to have thoughts about there being a better way and questioning whether this role was the right one for me.
In 2012 I did my mediation training and it was honestly life changing (I know that description gets overused). I realised that you could teach people how to avoid starting fires in the first place. Meeting with both parties was very different and always interesting. I got to hear both sides of the story and I could see how problems had developed between the parties. I could see that time and time again the two parents involved had simply stopped communicating and filled in what they each thought the other parent was thinking.
I carried on with a foot in both camps for a year but there was a big moment when I decided that I knew I only wanted to do mediation and that it was better to try things and fail than to spend your whole life wondering. So in 2013 I set up LKW Family Mediation. It has been a journey! It has made a me a student of two things: conflict and myself. I had not anticipated that learning about one would help me learn more about the other. There is nowhere to hide when you run your own business and are the face of it. Wrestling with things creates internal conflict which taught me more about conflict and myself.
Learning more was a privilege because I had felt unable to learn in the latter part of my career as a lawyer which was probably due to burn out. I suddenly had a zest for learning. By learning about why conflict occurs and how to diffuse it I was learning things about myself. By learning more about myself I was able to work in a way that felt like it was properly me and this supported me to be able to help clients as much as possible. I felt joyful and vibrant and NOT burned out.
I realised that this was information that needed to be shared. I knew other lawyers and family practitioners needed these tools to help them to assist their clients in diffusing some of the conflict. I also knew that by teaching things I had learned to help create a calmer working life I could also open up conversations about wellbeing and more beneficial and nourishing working environments.
So if you’re a busy family lawyer but you’d like a quick win in learning more about how to diffuse conflict I have just the thing for you. You can download the PDF I have put together with my 5 top tips for helping people have difficult conversations. You can teach these to your clients AND use them yourselves. I hope you find it useful. If you’d like further support with this and a place to network and ask questions why not join my free Linkedingroup: Communication tips for family lawyers?