How to Stay Married to an Attorney Part 3

lawyers_in_courtJust in case you missed this other key fact while being married to an attorney here it is: law colleagues change the way you relate.  It all starts in law school were students are ranked against one another in a feverish attempt to climb to the top ranking spot.  The rewards promised for such an accomplishment are better internships and subsequently better job opportunities.  In order to get there however, many try to psyche their higher ranked colleagues out in an effort to bring down the top grades and therefore increase their possibility of climbing higher.  The same principle applies to many law firms were the competition for the most billable hours and eventually partnership is equally cut-throat.

It is no wonder that at your last dinner party, your attorney spouse was a bit reluctant to take a new acquaintance and turn them into a friend.  The questions, “What do they really want from me” or “How can they use our relationship to hurt me” or even “Why do I need another friend” swirl around in your spouse’s brain without filter.  Having most likely been betrayed by a classmate, work colleague, or friend in the past, your attorney spouse is reluctant to enter into new relationships without an abundance of caution and ample amounts of time.

It’s all about competition.  Everything about practicing law is competitive from competing over handling a case, to competing over a settlement or trial, to competing over hearings or briefs, to competing over billable hours, to competing over paralegal’s time.  Someone is always competing with your spouse and trying to find the flaw or weakness.  For your spouse who knows this all too well in the work environment then has a difficult time transitioning into a home environment where it is not all about the competition.  Unless of course you make it about competing over who spends more time with the kids or who does the most housework or who has the most friends.  This practice is not advisable.

It’s all about control.  Think about it for a second, your spouse’s job is to control an outcome based on the expectations of their client.  The opposing attorney’s job is the exact same agenda.  Each attorney through their writings and speaking is trying to control what the opposing attorney is doing to achieve the best result for their client.  Exhausting!  Now translate this into personal experience where an innocent reminder about exiting off the highway can be perceived as controlling where and how to drive.  Turning off the “I’m being controlled” button is not as easy as you may think when your spouse is confronted with it day in and day out.

It’s all about being right.  Winning cases is more than about being right; it is about thinking and believing you are right even when you are wrong.  Worse, it is about convincing others that you are right regardless of actually being right.  For some attorneys, it does not take a lot of effort to constantly put on the “I’m right and you are wrong” face, as many of them come by this naturally.  However, trying to turn this attitude off at home or at a dinner party is an entirely different ball game especially when confronted with a competitive, controlling person.

Trying to out-compete, out-control, or out-right your attorney spouse is a waste of time, energy and effort.  In the end, they will win and the relationship will be destroyed.  Instead, understand your spouse’s lessons on relating to others and work within instead of against their boundaries.  Don’t compete with your spouse, resist the urge to control and forget about being right.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

How to Stay Married to an Attorney Part 2

English: Yale Law School Library Reading Room ...

English: Yale Law School Library Reading Room (L3) ‪中文(简体)‬: 耶鲁法学院图书馆3层阅读室 ‪中文(繁體)‬: 耶魯法學院圖書館3層閱讀室 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Just in case you missed this other key fact while being married to an attorney here it is: law firms change the way you work.  Many law firms operate on the concept of billable hours which are the hours an attorney works that can be billed directly to a client.  Even firms that do not charge by billable hours, operate on this same basic principle.

Here is how it all breaks down.  Not all hours spent at the firm are billable so in order to maintain an average of 2200 hours per year or 183 hours a month or 9 hours a day, most attorneys find they are at the office 3058 hours per year or 255 hours a month or 13 hours a day.  This does not include commute time, sick days, training days, funerals, or client development.  If you don’t believe the validity of these numbers or the expectations, here it is in detail from Yale Law School: http://www.law.yale.edu/documents/pdf/CDO_Public/cdo-billable_hour.pdf.

Time=Anxiety.  If however reviewing these numbers gave you an anxiety attack, then you are a tenth of the way to understanding the amount of pressure your attorney spouse is under on a daily basis. Time becomes a commodity of sorts because everyone is happy when billable hours are adequate and unhappy when they are not.  That blank stare your spouse gave you the last time you asked for help cleaning out the garage was an attempt on your spouse’s part to mentally calculate where the most anxiety will be generated from, work or home.  More anxiety at work if time is spent on the garage versus more anxiety at home if time is spent at work.

Time=Expectations.  The expectation to perform consistently is high at work and if your spouse was not obsessive about their time before becoming an attorney, they will become that way now.  Everything at work rises and falls on the value of your spouses’ time which is precisely why excessive time expectations at home are met with such resistance.  When every minute at home has an expectation attached, when is there down time?  When does your spouse get to relax and recoup?  Home should be a place of rejuvenation not additional demanding nagging expectations.

Time=Money.  Time spent at work equals money earned and the converse is true as well: time not spent at work equals less money earned.  Suppose the lawn needs to be mowed and it takes one hour to complete the task.  That translates into one less hour at work or one less hour with the family.  Most likely you can hire someone to mow the lawn for less than your attorney spouse earns in the same hour.  However, if you expect your spouse not to work or mow the lawn, then understand there will be additional financial consequences.  The equation is simple: more money means more time at work, less money means less time at work.

Time=Pressure.  It is the constant pressure to do well all the time.   This pressure at first is external but after several years of being an attorney, it becomes internal.  As an attorney, you cannot be off your game for even one day or there could be consequences far beyond financial.  So when the pressure at home is greater than the pressure at work your spouse will remain at work because an overworked attorney can at least receive a monetary bonus for the added pressure.  However when the pressure at work is greater than the pressure at home your spouse will come home because the additional money will not be worth the extra time away from home.

Once you understand how your spouse views work through the lens of being an attorney, it will become easier to anticipate and correctly interpret the blank stares over the messy garage or the sighs over mowing the yard.  These are not signs that you are being ignored; rather your spouse is being very analytical and not emotional about the work that needs to be done, just like at work.  Don’t let your emotions get the best of you in the process of communicating with your spouse.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

 

How to Stay Married to an Attorney

The Socratic Method

The Socratic Method (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Just in case you missed this key fact while being married to an attorney here it is: law school changes the way you think.  This is intentional on the school’s part and is done to properly prepare an attorney for the line of work they are entering.  Everyday a law student reads, studies, and analyzes case after case in preparation for their next class.  The professor then selects a random student and verbally quizzes them about one of the cases until they fail.  The questions at first are open-ended, meaning that multiple answers can be correct, and then rapidly become close-ended, meaning that there is a right or wrong answer.  This is called the Socratic Method of teaching which has been very effective for centuries.

More than likely you have already had an “ah-ha” moment just reading that description as it is likely to resemble your last disagreement.  It probably started innocently enough with an open-ended question from your attorney spouse.  You answered the question but then for some reason your spouse did not like the response and began asking question after question until you became so confused that you just said whatever you needed to just to end the discussion.  Thinking that turn-around is fair play, you then attempt the same tactic only to find that you are shut-down after the first remark.  This leaves you angry and confused however if you try to verbalize your emotions, the response is generally unsympathetic.

Don’t ask questions.  Your attorney spouse has a black-belt in answering questions the way they should have been asked, dodging questions they don’t want to answer, and anticipating your line of questioning long before you might even know where you are headed.  So don’t ask questions especially if you already know the answer and are trying to get your spouse on your side.  This will back-fire every time.  Instead make statements.  “I want pizza for dinner” instead of “what do you want for dinner”.  “We are going to the Jones’ house for dinner” instead of “do you want to go to the Jones’ house for dinner”.  Just be careful not to sound too bossy in your statements because once again you will be met with resistance.

Don’t over explain.  Your attorney spouse is already likely to over explain nearly everything and have multiple reasons for even simple tasks so don’t fall into this trap and add to the over explanation.  If you do your spouse is likely to find the hole in your explanation and then the entire discussion becomes questionable.  For if one small part of the argument is wrong then the whole thing can be thrown out.  The best way to avoid this is by not over explaining.  If you have to repeat the same explanation over again, this is preferable to going on and on.  Let your “yes” be “yes” and your “no” be “no” and keep your statements simple.

Don’t get emotional.  Your attorney spouse has been trained to keep their emotions in check while inciting you to an emotional state.  Remember the professor at the beginning?  Just put yourself in the shoes of the student and imagine how frustrating it must be to know that the goal of the professor is for you to fail.  Yet if the student shows any signs of frustration, the professor attacks even harder.  This is done because if you get emotional, then your arguments are not likely to be as rational and therefore can be easily broken down.  So do your best to keep you emotions in check during a disagreement.  There is nothing wrong with taking a break if you feel out of control and agreeing to discuss the matter later.  But then you must discuss it later as in within the next 24 hours or you will be met with additional and avoidable frustration.

By understanding how your spouse has been trained to think and working with that way of thinking instead of against it, you can minimize the disagreements and reduce the tension at home.  Stop trying to change your attorney spouse and instead change your response and get over the idea that your spouse needs to change for you.  After all, they will not be an attorney for long if they abandon the way they were taught to think in law school.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.