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Happiness in Family Law

Tonight's post is written by the attorney heading up our Savannah office, David Purvis.

For many people, going through a divorce or custody battle represents one of the unhappiest parts of their lives. Unfortunately, many family law attorneys do little to alter that by taking scorched earth approaches to their clients' family law situations. While I don't intend to sugar-coat what can be a very stressful period of time, I do spend time thinking about how I approach my practice and how I can best ease at least some of the stress and unhappiness.

I recently finished Tony Hsieh's book Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose. While the book largely discusses the company growth and success of Hsieh's company, Zappos, central to that success, and thus the book, is the concept of happiness. Hsieh discusses several "happiness frameworks". One framework particularly stuck with me as it resonates both personally and professionally and thought I would share it with our blog readers. (Hsieh's own website for the book, www.deliveringhappiness.com expressly permits sharing Hsieh's philosophies and being a happiness ambassador!).

This "happiness framework" consists of 4 areas: (1) Perceived Control, (2) Perceived Progress, (3) Connectedness (meaning quantity and depth of relationships), and (4) Vision or Meaning (being a part of something bigger than yourself). 

Our approach to family law actually addresses this framework, though certainly did so long before I read this book. As I considered Hsieh's framework, I thought about how it not only matched how I personally define happiness in my own life; but how our approach to the practice of family law addresses all four aspects of this framework. I also thought how most of the complaints I hear about attorneys are directly related to deficiencies in the attorney-client relationship in one or more of the aspects of this framework.

Perceived Control: Our clients have control over what is done in their case. There are many tools available to litigate a family law case. Some cases require specific tools to be utilized, while other tools may be helpful but not necessary. Rather than run a bill up for the sake of using all of the tools, we discuss each tool with the client, how much it is expected to cost, and what benefits may come from using it. For example, depositions can be incredibly helpful to a case's development, but they may not be essential to all cases. They may not even be helpful to most cases. Our clients have extraordinary control over their case and how their money is spent when it comes to utilizing tools that aren't absolutely necessary. It is my hope that our clients feel that they have a say in how their expenses are managed by their firm.

Perceived Progress: No one likes investing money into something and not feeling like anything is happening with that investment. Retaining a lawyer to handle a family law matter is no different. While the wheels of justice can turn slowly and efficiency is sometimes well beyond our control, we do keep our clients apprised of their case throughout the process. It is my hope that our clients never feel that they have been forgotten nor are surprised when something occurs in their case. 

Connectedness: Our clients stay in contact with the attorney and paralegal assigned to their case. Even more impressive, we have an exceptional Client Care Coordinator named Martha who guides potential clients through the process and is constantly accessible to our existing clients. It is my hope that our clients never feel out of touch with our Firm and never feel as if they do not know what is going on in their family law case.

Vision/Meaning: I think this aspect of the Framework is really where our Firm shines brightest - being a part of something bigger than yourself. For our team, it means being able to reach across Georgia as well as internationally to be able to help families. More importantly, it means helping our clients get adjusted to their new family dynamic, whatever it may be, and to help them as they move on with their lives when our work is done. Our Firm has a collective wealth of experience in Family Law that cannot be matched and we are able to harness that experience to handle cases from the local county courthouse all the way to wins in the United States Supreme Court. It is my hope that our clients feel that they are working towards the bigger picture of a new family dynamic and not just whatever phase in the litigation process they are in at any given time.

While I don't think that there is any one thing that can magically change a stressful situation in someone's life into true happiness, I strive to find ways to make sure that I am not adding needlessly to that stress. It's this approach to our practice that makes us the right fit for many people who are looking for a family lawyer.

P.S. - One other interesting tidbit from Hsieh's book: He discusses a study of lottery winners' level of happiness. They found that almost all of the people in the study's happiness levels were the same or actually lower a year after winning the lottery then where those levels were just before winning the lottery, adding to the age-old adage that money cannot buy happiness. Happiness isn't something external. Happiness seems to be something you pack around with you wherever you go.

May you take happiness with you, wherever you go.

David Purvis

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