Just Be Quiet

by Ted McClure 2. November 2010 14:07

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Just Be Quiet

by Brian M. Hirsch

Brian M. Hirsch is a partner at Hirsch & Ehlenberger, P.C., in Reston, Virginia, and practices exclusively in the area of family law. He is past president of the Virginia State Bar Family Law Section and a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. He is a Commissioner in Chancery as well as a Neutral Case Evaluator for the Fairfax County (Virginia) Circuit Court, evaluating and mediating divorce cases. He also serves as a guardian ad litem, representing children in custody, and abuse and neglect cases. Brian has authored several family law articles and lectures regularly at continuing legal education seminars.

This essay is part of Reflections, a collection of essays by and about Virginia lawyers that was solicited by Immediate Past President Jon D. Huddleston as part of his Virginia Is for Good Lawyers initiative.

Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that was come upon him, they came every one from his own place; Eliphaz the Temanite, and Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite: for they had made an appointment together to come to mourn with him and to comfort him. ... So they sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven nights, and none spake a word unto him: for they saw that his grief was very great.

The events of the Book of Job are all too familiar to divorce lawyers, whether or not we have ever read the story or believe that the events actually occurred. We see people living it every day. People who had genuinely wonderful lives by anyone’s yardstick—a spouse, kids, a great career, travel, a lavish home, maybe a beach house, and perhaps much more. Then they divorce and that great life begins to fade, and what remains is often just a flicker. They are devastated that their spouse betrayed them. They come home to a house empty of their children. Their career begins to suffer due to personal distractions and days spent with lawyers, therapists, real estate agents, and accountants. They are possibly at the lowest point of their once-great lives.

This is the context—the setting—for most divorce lawyers’ cases. Our training tells us to spring into action—to “win” custody battles, support hearings, and equitable distribution trials. Often we are successful, sometimes not. Even after all of our hard work and dedication, our clients are not what anyone would call happy. We try to tell them that things are looking up; that tomorrow’s going to be a better day; that everything’s going to be all right. But, you know what? The reality is that it’s not going to be for a long time, and it certainly won’t be like it was. We are only telling them this since it is hard for us to see them in such pain. We are only trying to make ourselves feel better.

I have always found this hard to deal with—working hard and still not having a happy client. I would chat away trying to cheer them up. Things became a little easier one day when I thought about the two simple things that Job’s companions did for him—they sat down with him, and they did not speak a word to him, “for they saw his grief was very great”. They didn’t try to fill the empty space with words of comfort, since Job was probably inconsolable at that point. They just sat quietly with him. So, I tried doing that. Not long periods of silence. Usually less than a minute, when the client started tearing up or was in obvious pain.

I discovered that it was a sign of respect for their pain, a way of saying I’m here. I’m not your best friend or your therapist, but I’m here. It may just be thirty or forty-five seconds, while they sit there staring out the window or down at their feet in shock or sadness, or with a tear streaming down their face. No platitudes or verbal hand patting that everything is going to be just fine. Especially not saying that you know how they must feel, because you really don’t. Each client's pain is unique, their own.

After the time lapses and the pain seems to abate, we go on. I continue to be their lawyer, and just their lawyer, but maybe just a little more connected.

Used with permission from author. ©2010 Brian M. Hirsch

Brian M. Hirsch, Just Be Quiet, VIRGINIA LAWYER, Oct. 2010, at 62.

Food for Thought

by PSL Law Library 22. October 2010 14:33

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While surfing the internet I came across an interesting article regarding a possible city ordinance in San Francisco, CA.  If approved this ordinance would place a ban on fast food restaurants, such as McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Burger King, from placing toys in their children’s meals until the meals become healthier.  Click here to read the article.  As you can imagine this issue has sparked a lot of discussion and it’s easy to name a few pros and cons.  Pro, maybe it will help teach kids about proper nutrition.  Con, as a parent you are no longer making the decision on what your child can eat. 

Reading this article about a city ordinance inspired me to get a little more information using both Lexis and Westlaw.  At the top of the research screen in Lexis you will find the legal dictionary search box; this is where I entered my search term (city ordinance).  When using Westlaw I entered my search term in the definitions box on the left side of the screen.  One database came back with no results, forcing me to change my search term.  The other database didn’t have a result for my exact search term but did have 21 results.  One of which was exactly what I needed.  Another thing I noticed was that one of the definitions was a bit more in-depth than the other.  This simple search demonstrated just one of the differences between the “big two” and why both should be used.  I suggest trying the search yourself and making your own decision on which database is better.

As for a decision on the city ordinance, a vote was supposed to take place on October 19th but has been postponed until November 2nd, Election Day. 

Closed Case Legal Research: using the National Archives

by Rob 15. September 2010 15:38

Federal case files that are closed are transferred from the Courts to the National Archive. From the 1960s onwards, regional archives store transcripts, pleadings, exhibits, dockets, and any other proceedings from the Federal Courts of Appeal, Bankruptcy Court, Civil and Criminal Courts.

Arizona Federal case files are stored at the National Archive center in Riverside, CA. For a fee anything can be obtained and delivered to the legal researcher. You can also gumshoe your way to Riverside to access the case archive in person. This same system is administered by the National Archives nationally so closed case files from any jurisdiction can be accessed.

See NARA Info: http://www.archives.gov/pacific/frc/riverside/court-records  

Here is an example of legal research not typically conducted online, but some of these documents are being scanned and added to databases like Westlaw.  





Tips | Research

Entertaining Legal Research with Google Scholar

by Rob 13. August 2010 13:22

Earlier this year Google introduced a new option for searching legal opinions and law journals on Google Scholar. Full-text searching across case law with the option to narrow results to a specific jurisdiction made this search enhancement a sensation.  A new player in the free legal research arena was born.

Recently Google compiled a list of the most entertaining legal opinions in its database.  Cases written in verse and rhyme are listed with amusing outbursts from the bench.

Google Scholar differs from Google in providing vetted results from peer-reviewed journals, educational and government websites, with minimal commercial-sponsored results. Additionally, Google Scholar alerts allow for the tracking of specific subjects from the online academic, artistic, legal, and scientific community. Legal opinions and law journals are being fully embedded into this model, including even a rudimentary citation tool for cases called ‘how cited.’ More

One of the issues with online - and particularly free - legal research sources such as this is authenticity. Google cannot guarantee the opinions included are accurate or official, and accurately state they should not be relied on. Google Scholar enhances legal research but cannot provide the authentically of official sources of law.



Databases | Tips | Web

Are you distracted?

by PSL Law Library 28. June 2010 02:48

Picture source: MorgueFile

Often we struggle with focusing on a single task... which could be any number of things, including studying!

The New York Times recently had an article about people who are hooked on gadgets and technology. In addition to the article were two quick and revealing interactive tests to determine your focus and task juggling ability. These tests are part of the NY Times technology series, "This is Your Brain on Gadgets" from The Learning Network Blog.

Click here to test your focus.

Click here to test how fast you juggle tasks.

Another good tip for studying or to get back on focus with any task is to take a 15 minute walk. A study of students shows that activity breaks improve concentration. Do some jumping jacks while you read this post from the Scholastic Administrator blog.

Picture source: MorgueFile



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