To my mind, this passage is the foundation for effectively helping clients through a divorce. Some attorneys have trouble allowing clients to make their own decisions, and feel compelled to “guide” clients to making whatever decision the attorney himself would make in that situation. And, while it is not always easy, remembering that a client’s decisions are hers to make and not my own, is the key to effectively helping her make those decisions. And, that, so far as I have come to understand it, is the key to truly caring for clients.
When I care for an adult…I try to avoid making decisions for him. I help him make his own decisions by providing information, suggesting alternatives, and pointing out possible consequences, but all along I realize that they are his decisions to make and not my own.
One frequent topic of co-parenting discussions is how much autonomy each parent will have when making decisions about the children. How will decisions be made by the parents to benefit the children now that interaction and communication between parents is less frequent and maybe more difficult?I like to talk to clients about “Autonomy Buckets”, a concept I learned from Cat Zavis, an attorney, mediator and expert communicator in Washington state.
Everybody has a bias.
That’s not bad or wrong. It just is. No one can be completely objective. (Don’t believe me? Read “Thinking, Fast and Slow”!)
The challenge, then, is to understand the bias so that you know how to more accurately interpret information from that person.
Nowhere is this more important than in choosing and communicating with your divorce attorney. Contrary to popular belief, divorce attorneys are people (at least that’s my working hypothesis). And, as such, they have biases. One of your jobs as a discriminating client is to figure out what that bias is, and then interpret the advice, information and counsel you get from your attorney accordingly.