Why

The problem with being a lawyer is that the situations that cause people to go to court are often highly emotionally charged. This means that often, lawyers act a little more like social workers than we’d like, since in law school, they spent three years beating our social skills out. Instead of rational clients, you have a person who feels wronged in some way, and they want the court to say, "yes Joe, you were wronged by Jill."

The problem is that the court doesn’t say that. Courts make things right according to the law, in theory, but they don’t do what is fair. If I had a nickel for every time a client said, "don’t you think that’s fair?" to me about something they wanted, man, I’d have a whole lotta nickels. The thing is though, sometimes the law doesn’t feel fair. If two people were getting divorced and one died, his wife or her husband would still get most of their money, and this is unfathomable to clients who were the child of the deceased or the mistress of the deceased or even the sibling of the deceased.

My job, these days, seems to involve an awful lot of explaining why certain laws exist. Why does the law say that the funeral expenses must be paid of of the estate, even though so-and-so agreed to pay them from the life insurance money? Why does the law say that the first $15,000 goes to the spouse, even if there is only $12,000 in the estate? Why does the law allow for Medicaid to take a person’s house when all they did was get old and sick and go into a nursing home with no way to pay for it?

I explain this because when one of these laws comes up, and it’s working against you, it feels unfair. My goal is that by explaining why the law is the way it is, my clients will understand why the law exists and although they will feel like it is unfair to them, they will be more willing to roll with it instead of yelling at the judge when the judge makes her ruling.

However, it seems to be working out for me much more like with a 2-year-old when I say, "this is why this is" and then suddenly I’m bombarded with even more "but why?" "but why?". I’m getting really close to saying, "because the legislature says so, that’s why!" Any other suggestions?

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