I am a young lawyer but the past year of managing my own law practice has confirmed what everyone already knows: justice is not only blind but it is also deaf and mute. I remember growing up with my mother telling me that if artful thieves exist and can target me, I must also be artful in protecting myself. I now somehow entangled this notion as a metaphor in the calculation of what it takes to achieve justice as a lawyer.
I will throw in a caveat here: I am not speaking about justice as it refers to discrimination and Charter rights, or legal decisions such as the recent headliners of the sentencing of Marco Muzzo or the effect of the Ghomeshi decision on sexual assault victims. Here, I am speaking about the case where two people are in conflict and find themselves at a bad point in their lives. It is noteworthy that the facts are not repugnant in this case. This is the typical family law scenario where financial resources are limited; children and other parties may or may not be involved; feelings may or may not be hurt; assets may or may not be involved; domestic assault may or may not be at issue; one of the parties may or may not be completely at fault. Let’s call this case “The Crisis” because, often times, people that suffer (and yes, I am using this word on purpose) of a family law case, have most likely reached a crisis.
The Crisis results when each person desperately wants an opposite result. Desired outcomes range from more assets, sole custody of the children, restraining orders and other non-legal claims, for example, the heart of the other party served on a nice porcelain platter with silver cutlery and a garnish of their soul on the side to satisfy the taste buds of the ego. It is apparent to me that each party is consumed with self-destructing goals and they lose any semblance of a positive perspective. The legal system will not return their children forthwith and the legal system will not listen. Not now, not during The Crisis. Why? Because during the period of The Crisis, the legal system forces the parties to jump through hoops and most importantly, to take their time until most of them step out of The Crisis.
As lawyers, we write applications and conference briefs and we draft long lists of accusations as instructed by our clients. We receive and write unpleasant letters. Yet, these details will rarely matter in The Crisis, unlike other cases. What should be important in The Crisis is not whether the other party has paid for their mistakes, but whether they can conceive of escaping The Crisis. Instead of focusing on those small details, the parties must focus on the bigger picture. Unfortunately, the lawyer must take her instructions from the client. This results in an expensive case that achieves few, if any, of the client’s goals during The Crisis. Eventually, the client realizes that justice is not listening because it has been designed to be deaf during The Crisis. Time passes by and the client learns to step out of The Crisis. And after all of the time, effort, sleepless nights, letters, money, emotions, stubbornness, hunger, regret, hate, and darkness finally comes compromise.