On Caring by Milton Mayerhoff is one of the most personally important and impactful books that I have ever read, and probably will ever read. It is a summary and explanation of what it means to care for oneself and others, both philosophically and practically.
I had been practicing law for over a decade before I found the book. But, one particular passage succinctly described the guiding principle that I had developed for my representation of, and 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.
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.