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Conflict resolution

A nugget of wisdom that was imparted to us in law school, but something I only truly understood in practice: lawyering is a profession of conflicts.

Artists create. Doctors heal. Architects and engineers build. But people only need lawyers when conflict arises. Lawyers do not envision as builders do - in fact, they're trained to limit the vision. (Because not all that is optimal is legally sound.)

What need is there for lawyers when everything is smooth sailing?

The oath says lawyers should advocate for the law, not one party. You aim to uphold the Constitution and the legal processes. But the truth is, the practice is almost always adversarial. You always stand on one side. While our code requires us to discourage clients from litigation, not everyone is happy to settle. Parties will insist on their stand - correct or not - and sometimes, when there is wiggle room for collision, lawsuits can still be pursued.

I am lucky to be in a practice that does not force me to be at odds with what is legal and what is moral. I can sleep at night knowing that my work is aligned with the things I believe in. But, my job also requires that I stand on one side of the spectrum and be an advocate for one party. The other week, I had to assist in the enforcement of a warrant. It was legal and within the bounds of what the law required. However, I also had to deal with the emotional fall out of the entire thing. I had to talk to the other parties and assure them that I will try my best to reach a reasonable settlement - although, my hands are tied since I have the interests of my client to protect as well.

"Why did you become a lawyer then, if you're allergic to conflict?"

This is something I still have no definite answer to. (Actually, if you just stopped at "Why did you become a lawyer?" I also wouldn't have a clear cut answer to that. Ha!)

But this is something I have to calibrate within myself, I guess. Conflicts exist as part of the fabric of society. Humans interact, humans disagree. The best thing we can do is to help people come together and coexist on terms permitted by law - and hopefully, by society's standards of what is right. Emotions come at a cost in practice, true. But maybe, not being too far removed from the plight of someone is not so bad when it comes to resolving conflict. When you still see gray areas, when you don't see parties (client or not) as just names on the pleading but still people, that makes for a better advocate.


Forgive the introspection. Yesterday, I celebrated my first anniversary at work! I can't believe it. Feels like I still know nothing about what I'm doing - and still winging it most of the time. But there really is so much more to learn. Here's to growth, and resolutions, and resilience.