Lawyers who are representing clients in divorce mediation sometimes ask us: what are we supposed to do? It is an important subject matter, and one of interest to the bar, as evidenced by the inquiries that we have received.
It is entirely understandable for divorce lawyers to question their role in this process because lawyers are taught from the day they enter law school (and from exposure to our culture long before) that lawyers are required to provide zealous representation for all clients, divorce and family law parties included. This notion is embodied in many codes of ethical conduct and it denotes fighting for one’s “rights”, or less dramatically, working to get the best possible outcome for the client.
Yet, divorce mediation and other family law mediation matters, are not geared to getting the best possible result for either party; but one which both understand fully, and one with which they both can live, while doing as little damage as possible to the functional relationship of the parties (in some cases improving it perhaps) and minimizing the damage to their collective finances. In some cases, we even find ways to “expand the pie” and find a beneficial outcome for both parties.
So, how is a lawyer working with a client who is not looking for zealous advocacy and actively does not want it, supposed to function? In the next two entries we will discuss this question in two contexts: the lawyer assisted-mediation and the lawyer-attended mediation. (In earlier entries, we discussed this distinction at some length, and we invite you to review those pieces, too.)