While practicing law full-time, I became increasingly aware of the role compassion played in my work. This, and my desire that compassion be a central element of my work, was a catalyst for my return to graduate school to receive education, training and licensure as a mental health counselor (LMHC), and to develop a career in the mental health field. One of my professional objectives is to support lawyers in practicing law as whole persons.
Clients with legal issues often are facing emotional turmoil and uncertainty. In family law cases, family relationships are undergoing change and, often, conflict and chaos. In criminal cases, the defendant is facing a potential loss of liberty, with all its accompanying losses. Crime victims have likely experienced trauma. Employment cases tend to involve conflict and, sometimes, job loss. Commercial law--financial stress and uncertainty. Immigration--loss of bonds established in a new country and potential return to unsettled political or other instability in one’s home country. Conflict, loss and change—the “stuff” of humanity. As a result, although lawyers’ primary job is to focus on the client’s legal concerns, lawyers frequently are called on to recognize and support the client on an emotional level.
“Lawyers cannot fix everything that is broken, yet, compassionate journeying with…clients and their loved ones can provide a sense of reassurance that is priceless beyond measure.” (Coffey, F.G. & Kessler, M.C., The Reflective Counselor: Daily Meditations for Lawyers, p. 327). Amidst the pressures and discord of law practice, many lawyers generously imbue their work with a compassionate spirit. Simply listening and, with a few consoling words, letting the client know you’ve heard; reassuring a client that you appreciate what they’re going through; connecting a client with needed non-legal resources. Despite the balancing act this can demand, I believe a compassionate approach to legal practice results in more satisfied clients and more fulfilled lawyers.
“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” - Dalai Lama
Whether you are a lawyer or not, what is your experience of compassion in the legal arena? What role does compassion play in your work? Share your thoughts, share your story. Leave your comments here.