Full Time Practice

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

It is Sometimes a “Contentious Profession” ---

(Written by Deborah Hendrickson, the WIL Committee vice-chair, who is responsible for the blog focus group "Full time practice".)

A recent tragedy in our community has caused me to reflect again on a topic that I have often contemplated –i.e. how to deal with the contention that naturally comes when you are an attorney practicing in fields that involve contentious disputes and litigation. 

A recent news story in our community included an account of how an adverse unrepresented party in a business dispute shot and killed the opposing attorney and his client after a settlement meeting the three attended. 

This unspeakable horror brings home with stark reality the difficult situations and persons that many of us deal with when we practice law.  I practice family law and my husband/partner has practiced in commercial litigation and bankruptcy for many years.  Unfortunately, these areas sometimes bring out the worst in people, both attorneys and parties. 

I have repeatedly struggled in my own heart and mind with the scriptural edict that where there is contention the spirit cannot dwell. 

3 Nephi 11:29 ---

For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.

Consequently, I have adopted a few personal principles that I try to follow as I daily deal with contentious people and situations.  Here are just a few suggestions:

1.    Always use civility and professional courtesy in dealing with other attorneys or adverse parties, no matter how they are acting toward me.

      2.    Try to build trust and confidence in clients, so that they are more willing to listen to my advice when I counsel them to be more civil with their soon to be ex-spouse or the adverse party.

      3.    Look for red flags when interviewing potential clients that suggest they may not be reasonable and in fact may be driven almost entirely by bitterness or revenge --- It’s usually just not worth taking the case!

I would love to hear your suggestions and thoughts on this subject!

(One of the goals of this blog is to address seven different focus groups:  full time practice; part time practice; on hiatus; practicing with children at home; students; using your law degree in your community and family; and, singles.  If you have any suggestions about topics you would like to see addressed in these areas, please let us know through the Comment section below.)


  1. Thank you for sharing. While I understand that there is risk for just breathing on this planet it is good to be reminded that while we may not be police officers or other extremely high risk professions, we are at risk when deeply personal issues are dealt with by us or through us.
    Thank you for the reminder to stay alert and while we may think the issues we deal with are routine because we deal with them in quantity or because we know the legal process, this is a good reminder to stay alert and we need to do what we can to help when and if we can.

    Amazing, I am working on a courageous attorney award submission. I think maybe we all need this award and didn't even know it.

    If you are able, please reach out to the family and colleagues and tell them they are in our thoughts and prayers. While it is no consolation and there was probably nothing that could have been done in this situation, the sharing of this story can and will help others. Thank you

  2. Excelentes sugerencias!! considero que en nuestra profesion como abogados y tomando en cuenta que somos SUD, es imprescindible aplicar en nuestra defensa legal de particulares e incluso del Estado, los principios del Evangelio, en particular trabajar diariamente en desarrollar en nosotros aquellos frutos del espíritu (gálatas 5)

    saludos cordiales!

    Noelia Quiroga
    La Paz, Bolivia

  3. In case you don't speak Spanish and want to know what Noelia had to say, the English translation is the following:

    Excellent suggestions! Considering that in our profession as attorneys and keeping in mind that we are Latter Day Saints, it is essential to apply in our private legal practice or for the state, a daily development within ourselves the benefits of having the holy spirit.