How many times has this happened to you; you’re at a party with people that you are meeting for the first time, or you are having a quiet after work drink and you meet someone new, or your new hairdresser is making polite conversation with you, or you are even standing in line at the supermarket making small talk with the person next to you, and you are asked the question “so, what do you do?

In a town such as Canberra where a significant percentage of the population work for the Government, and people do have fascinating jobs it’s a question I get asked when meeting someone new (sometimes even before I get asked what my name is) almost daily.

What do I do?…I’m a family lawyer. This is how that conversation usually goes for me:

Newly introduced Person X: So, what do you do?
Me: Well, I am a family lawyer
I then watch as Newly Introduced Person X contemplates this. Usually there is a small pause and then a look of slight puzzlement, which is followed by “Wow. Isn’t it hard? That must be so depressing

Over the years I have had a lot of practice about how to answer this question and I have managed to whittle the response down to a few short sentences, which focuses on something like:

“Its not depressing. I enjoy helping people”

Then the subject is changed and I am left to wonder whether I truly got my point across and whether my passion for family law was properly expressed. This inevitably leads to a brief moment of frustration because, even though I know that Newly Introduced Person X is just making polite conversation, as a family lawyer I do feel a need to justify my passion.

The truth is, I became a family lawyer because my parents as a married couple did not get along at all. They are both great people, however together they brought out the worst in each other. They fought constantly and I do recall very many occasions during my childhood when they seemed happy.

They separated when I was a teenager and, once separated became the best of friends. When they were separated, and I had subsequently moved out of home, it was not uncommon for me to call my Mum and ask her what she was doing only for her to tell me that she was “just sewing a button your father’s pants for him’. They also travelled together and spent a great deal of time together, as friends.

Probably the biggest testament to their relationship after separation is that despite both having met subsequent partners, my parents have also decided to be buried together!

Both my parents went on to find significant others and live full lives after they separated.  And both of them would tell you that they were much happier once they had separated, than when they had married.

However, I can assure you that this is only a realisation that they came to in retrospect after a number of years.  If you had told both my parents immediately after the separation that it was for the best and that they would be happier in the long run, I don’t think they would have believed you.

Usually when I meet people, they are at a particularly low point in their lives as the idea of separation is a relatively new concept to them.  But as a family lawyer I get to help them through a process and watch as many leave happier then when they came.

So, in short the answer is ‘no’, its not depressing…but maybe I should work on my spiel…