There’s a handful of character traits that most, if not all, family lawyers will claim to possess in their marketing pitches to potential clients. They are: high emotional intelligence, toughness in dealing with opponents, good advocacy skills, and the ability to talk about the law in a way that is comprehensible and useful to clients without legal training.
One trait that I have found gets called upon regularly in my work as a family lawyer, but which never seems to feature in marketing pitches, is the ability to tolerate boredom and persevere with tasks that are boring.
Without wanting to dismiss the high level of emotions involved in pretty much every family law dispute that I come across, it is the case that a non-negligible portion of the work that a family lawyer does in their day-to-day is objectively boring and tedious and difficult. I provide three examples:
- 1. Reading hundreds or thousands of pages of other people’s bank statements to figure out where missing money has gone;
- 2. Figuring out how a draft set of parenting orders are going to work by printing out calendars for the next year/five years/decade and going through them day by day to avoid an argument about it when, for example, the Easter weekend falls in the middle of a school holiday period some years into the future;
- 3. Parsing through the relevant legislation to figure out how it works in an unusual fact situation or how it interacts with some other legislation – the Family Law Act is nearly 800 pages, the two child support acts together comprise more than 600 pages, the domestic violence legislation is more than 100 pages, and the care and protection legislation is most intimidating of all at more than 800 pages.
If you were minded to drive past our office of a weekend then you would more likely than not find one or more of us doing one of the above tasks. It’s not that we don’t have family or friends that we would rather be spending time. And don’t feel obliged to get the Fair Work Ombudsman involved – no one is forcing us to be here. My pitch to you as to why you should engage our firm for your family law matter is that we aren’t just good at the exciting, high stress parts of family law, but also the boring parts that can be lonely and frustrating and unrewarding and we put in the effort to do them when they need to be done rather than when is convenient for us to do them.
I think David Foster Wallace said it best when he described it as the “key to modern life. If you are immune to boredom, there is literally nothing you cannot accomplish.”
Sam Cummings is a Family Lawyer at Farrar Gesini Dunn, Canberra Office
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